Investigation into clouds and precipitation over and urban area using micro rain radars, satelite remote sensing and fluorescence spectrophotometry

Catherine Muller, Christopher Kidd, Ian Fairchild, Andrew Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


The observation and modeling of the indirect effects of aerosols on clouds remain an enormous challenge. Aerosols have a significant yet complicated impact on the precipitation processes. They can either enhance or suppress precipitation depending upon type of aerosol, seasonality, climate regime, cloud type or orographic profile of a region, particularly over populated areas. In order to observe and examine both cloud and precipitation processes, a combination of both satellite and ground-based remote sensing techniques can be employed. This paper presents the results from three years of data collection in Birmingham, United Kingdom. It describes and explains the application of a range of complimentary techniques: fluorescence spectrophotometry to examine dissolved organic carbon compounds in rainwater samples; satellite analysis tools are used to assess cloud-top microphysics; and an array of vertically-pointing micro-rain radars (MRRs) are used to assess variations in drop size distribution (DSD) for categorized events. Events are classified as microphysically 'maritime' or 'continental', showing that full development of the ice phase was reached at relatively warm temperatures for microphysically 'maritime' events, but at colder temperatures for microphysically 'continental' events. The importance of updrafts in severe thunderstorms and tornadic events is highlighted. High rainwater content of tyrosine-like substances (TYLIS) and tryptophan-like substances (TRYLIS) is found to be associated mainly with microphysically 'maritime' events, providing evidence for these substances acting as ice nuclei at relatively warm temperatures. High rainwater content of humic-like substances (HULIS) is associated with both microphysically 'maritime' and 'continental' events due to the complexity of such substances. As might be expected, continentally-sourced events had a similar structure to microphysically 'continental' events, whereas maritime-sourced events differed in their microphysical structure, indicating the local impacts on their microstructure. The DSD appears to vary between different events - for example, continentally-sourced, microphysically 'continental', convective events with low rainwater TRYLIS have a DSD containing fewer smaller droplets, whereas maritime-sourced, microphysically 'maritime', stratiform events with high TRYLIS had a DSD containing a greater number of smaller droplets. Satellite observations and vertically-pointing radars were found to be useful for analyzing clouds and precipitation since they provide a wealth of information to allow microphysical parameters to be investigated in detail. (c) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-255
Number of pages15
JournalAtmospheric Research
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Aerosols
  • Rainfall
  • Organic carbon
  • Drop size distributions
  • Cloud microphysics


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