01 Dec 2022
01 Dec 2022

Systematic analysis of virga and its impact on surface particulate matter observations

Nakul Nitin Karle1, Ricardo Kendi Sakai1, Rosa Maximilia Fitzgerald2, Charles Ichoku1, Fernando Mercado3, and William Ross Stockwell2 Nakul Nitin Karle et al.
  • 1Program in Atmospheric Sciences, Howard University, Beltsville Campus, MD, 20705, USA
  • 2Department of Physics, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, 79968, USA
  • 3Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Austin, TX, 78711, USA

Abstract. Studies focusing on virga are rare, even though it is a commonly occurring phenomenon. In this study, we investigated aerosol backscatter profiles from a ceilometer located on the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus from 2015–2021 to identify virga events. Ceilometer data effectively captured virga events from regular precipitation based on the backscattering intensities. To characterize the virga phenomena, a systematic method was developed using ceilometer profiles, soundings, surface rain gauges, and radar data from the nearest National Weather Service (NWS). A total of 50 virga events were identified during the study period. These events appeared only during a specific time of the year, revealing a seasonal occurrence pattern. We identified and classified these virga events and investigated their impact on the surface measurements recorded by the on-campus Continuous Ambient Air Monitoring Station (CAMS). Virga events were classified as columnar and non-columnar events based on their aerosol profiles. We observed that during some of the columnar virga events, surface PM levels displayed a sudden upward trend indicating aerosol loading in the surface layer after precipitation evaporation. Twenty of the virga events showed a columnar structure out of the fifty identified in this study. More detailed analysis of selected events shows that virga affects regional air quality. A significant result of this study is that analysis of sudden changes in local air quality need to consider the possible effects of virga on the surface layer.

Nakul Nitin Karle et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • AC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-906', Nakul Karle, 19 Dec 2022
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-906', Anonymous Referee #2, 15 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-906', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Feb 2023

Nakul Nitin Karle et al.

Nakul Nitin Karle et al.


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Short summary
Extensive virga research is uncommon, even though it is a common phenomenon. A systematic method was developed to characterize the virga using available datasets. 50 virga events were observed, which appeared only during a specific time of the year, revealing a seasonal occurrence pattern. These virga events were identified and classified, and their impact on surface measurements was investigated. A more detailed examination of selected events reveals that virga impacts regional air quality.