Observation of a freezing drizzle episode: a case study

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On 5 February 2012 an episode of freezing precipitation took place in the Guadarrama Mountains, at the center of the Iberian Peninsula. This precipitation affected high elevations, where temperatures remained below freezing because of snow cover that had accumulated from snowfall during the previous days. The case study was recorded by surface synoptic observations (SYNOP) at Navacerrada Pass meteorological observatory (belonging to the National Weather Service of Spain). To study winter cloud systems during the TEcoAgua project, a multichannel ground-based microwave radiometer (MMWR), Micro Rain Radar (MRR-2), and isothermal cloud chamber were installed in the study area, thus permitting the monitoring of the freezing precipitation event. Analysis using Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellite data and observations permitted the determination of factors that triggered the freezing precipitation event. Freezing drizzle was interspersed with the passage of a warm and cold front. During frontal passage, mid-level clouds inhibited the generation of freezing drizzle, with snowfall recorded in the study area. However, during the period between the two fronts, an absence of mid-level clouds permitted low-level orographic clouds to persist upwind of the mountain system, producing freezing drizzle at the surface. The decisive factors for the generation of freezing drizzle were high humidity at low levels, weak mesoscale updrafts caused by the topography, stability at mid levels, cloud-top temperatures warmer than −15 °C, and low concentrations of ice nuclei.
© 2014 Elsevier B.V. This paper was supported by the following grants: TEcoAgua, and Granimetro (CGL2010-15930), and LE220A11-2 and LE003B009 awarded by the Junta de Castilla y León and MINECO. Special thanks to Roberto Weigand, Angel Guerrero, Steven Hunter and Analisa Weston. We would like to thank Canal de Isabel II Gestion for the use of their facilities. S. Fernández-González acknowledges grant the support from the FPU program (AP 2010-2093).