Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility US Department of Energy

Midlatitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E)

22 April 2011 - 6 June 2011

Lead Scientist: Michael Jensen

Observatory: SGP

Convective processes play a critical role in the Earth's energy balance through the redistribution of heat and moisture in the atmosphere and their link to the hydrological cycle. Accurate representation of convective processes in numerical models is vital towards improving current and future simulations of Earth’s climate system. Despite improvements in computing power, current operational weather and global climate models are unable to resolve the natural temporal and spatial scales important to convective processes and therefore must turn to parameterization schemes to represent these processes. In turn, parameterization schemes in cloud-resolving models need to be evaluated for their generality and application to a variety of atmospheric conditions. Data from field campaigns with appropriate forcing descriptors have been traditionally used by modelers for evaluating and improving parameterization schemes. To this end, the Midlatitude Continental Convective Cloud Experiment (MC3E), a joint field program involving NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Program and ARM investigators, was conducted in south-central Oklahoma during the April to May 2011 period. The experiment leveraged from the unprecedented observing infrastructure available in the central United States, combined with an extensive sounding array. Our goal was to provide the most complete characterization of convective cloud systems and their environment that had ever been obtained, providing constraints for model cumulus parameterizations that had never before been available. Several different components of convective processes tangible to the convective parameterization problem were targeted, such as pre-convective environment and convective initiation, updraft/downdraft dynamics, condensate transport and detrainment, precipitation and cloud microphysics, influence on the environment and radiation, and a detailed description of the large-scale forcing. This intensive observation period used a new multi-scale observing strategy with the participation of a network of distributed sensors (both passive and active). The approach was to document in 3D not only precipitation, but also clouds, winds, and moisture in an attempt to provide a holistic view of convective clouds and their feedback with the environment. A goal was to measure cloud and precipitation transitions and environmental quantities that are important for convective parameterization in large-scale models and cloud-resolving model simulations. With unprecedented observing capabilities comes a greater responsibility to develop synthesis data products suitable for model studies and evaluation. Thus, special emphasis was given to the development of a systematic dialogue with the ASR modeling group for the development of such 3D data products.

This experiment seeks to use a multi-scale, multi-frequency, multi-platform observational strategy to provide unprecedented detail in characterizing convection and its environment, providing constraints for model cumulus parameterizations and spaceborne measurements of precipitation over land that have never before been available. The key goals are to:

  1. Advance the understanding of the different components of convective simulation and microphysical parameterization
  2. Improve the fidelity of rainfall estimates over land

Additional Information

Steering Committee

  • Michael Jensen, Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Walter Petersen, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Anthony Del Genio, NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies
  • Scott Giangrande, McGill University
  • Andrew Heymsfield, NSF National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Gerald Heymsfield, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Aurther Hou, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Pavlos Kollias, McGill University
  • Brad Orr, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Steven Rutledge, Colorado State University
  • Matthew Schwaller, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Edward Zipser, University of Utah
  • Co-Investigators

    Anthony Del Genio
    Scott Giangrande
    Pavlos Kollias

    Related Publications


    Zeng X, G Skofronick-Jackson, L Tian, A Emory, W Olson, and R Kroodsma. 2019. "Analysis of the Global Microwave Polarization Data of Clouds." Journal of Climate, 32(1), 10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0293.1.


    Wang J, X Dong, and B Xi. 2018. "Investigation of Liquid Cloud Microphysical Properties of Deep Convective Systems: 2. Parameterization of Raindrop Size Distribution and its Application for Convective Rain Estimation." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, , 10.1029/2018JD028727. ONLINE.

    Finlon J, G McFarquhar, S Nesbitt, R Rauber, H Morrison, W Wu, and P Zhang. 2018. "A novel approach to characterize the variability in mass-Dimension relationships: results from MC3E." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, , 10.5194/acp-2018-795.

    Pei B and F Testik. 2018. "A Regression-Free Rainfall Estimation Algorithm for Dual-Polarization Radars." Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 35(8), 10.1175/JTECH-D-17-0201.1.

    Wu W and G McFarquhar. 2018. "Statistical theory on the functional form of cloud particle size distributions." Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 75(8), 10.1175/JAS-D-17-0164.1.

    Morcrette C, K Van Weverberg, H Ma, M Ahlgrimm, E Bazile, L Berg, A Cheng, F Cheruy, J Cole, R Forbes, W Gustafson, M Huang, W Lee, Y Liu, L Mellul, W Merryfield, Y Qian, R Roehrig, Y Wang, S Xie, K Xu, C Zhang, S Klein, and J Petch. 2018. "Introduction to CAUSES: Description of Weather and Climate Models and Their Near-Surface Temperature Errors in 5 day Hindcasts Near the Southern Great Plains." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123(5), doi:10.1002/2017JD027199.
    Research Highlight

    Ma H, S Klein, S Xie, C Zhang, S Tang, Q Tang, C Morcrette, K Van Weverberg, J Petch, M Ahlgrimm, L Berg, F Cheruy, J Cole, R Forbes, W Gustafson, M Huang, Y Liu, W Merryfield, Y Qian, R Roehrig, and Y Wang. 2018. "CAUSES: On the Role of Surface Energy Budget Errors to the Warm Surface Air Temperature Error Over the Central United States." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123(5), 10.1002/2017JD027194.
    Research Highlight

    Mechem D and S Giangrande. 2018. "The Challenge of Identifying Controls on Cloud Properties and Precipitation Onset for Cumulus Congestus Sampled During MC3E." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123(6), doi:10.1002/2017JD027457.
    Research Highlight

    Van Weverberg K, C Morcrette, J Petch, S Klein, H Ma, C Zhang, S Xie, Q Tang, W Gustafson Jr, Y Qian, L Berg, Y Liu, M Huang, M Ahlgrimm, R Forbes, E Bazile, R Roehrig, J Cole, W Merryfield, W Lee, F Cheruy, L Mellul, Y Wang, K Johnson, and M Thieman. 2018. "CAUSES: Attribution of Surface Radiation Biases in NWP and Climate Models near the U.S. Southern Great Plains." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123(7), 10.1002/2017JD027188.
    Research Highlight

    Tian J, X Dong, B Xi, P Minnis, W Smith, S Sun-Mack, M Thieman, and J Wang. 2018. "Comparisons of Ice Water Path in Deep Convective Systems Among Ground-Based, GOES, and CERES-MODIS Retrievals." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 123(3), 10.1002/2017JD027498.

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    Campaign Data Sets

    IOP Participant Data Source Name Final Data
    Mary Jane Bartholomew Video Disdrometer Order Data
    Jennifer Comstock High Volume Precip Spectrometer Order Data
    Jennifer Comstock High Volume Precip Spectrometer Order Data
    Michael Jensen Balloon Sonde Order Data
    Michael Jensen Balloon Sonde Adjust Order Data
    Michael Jensen Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) Order Data
    Michael Jensen Microwave Radiometer Profiler Order Data
    Alyssa Matthews S-band Radar Order Data
    Mathew Schwaller GPM Ground Validation Autonomous Parsivel Unit (APU) MC3E Order Data
    Mathew Schwaller GPM Ground Validation Two-Dimensional Video Disdrometer (2DVD) MC3E Order Data
    Jason Tomlinson Ultra High Sensitivity Aerosol Spectrometer Order Data
    Jason Tomlinson Ultra High Sensitivity Aerosol Spectrometer Order Data
    David Turner AERI Retrieved Thermodynamic Profiles and Cloud Properties Order Data
    Christopher Williams 449 MHz Profiler Order Data
    Christopher Williams Parcivel Disdrometer Order Data
    Christopher Williams S-band Radar Order Data
    Christopher Williams Surface Meteorology Order Data
    Christopher Williams Vertical Air Motion Order Data
    Shaocheng Xie Single Column Model Forcing Order Data