Courtesy of Matthew Miller

From: Matthew Miller
NOAA RV Ronald H. Brown, October 23, 2008

Ronald H. Brown's Radar Observes Drizzle

The R/V Ronald Brown has a scanning precipitation radar. This is a valuable research instrument. For the VOCALS project, it is an essential part of observing drizzle and making rain maps of the marine stratocumulus.

Marine stratocumulus occurs in two configurations: open-cell and closed-cell. The cells that compose a large area of marine stratocumulus arrange themselves in a honeycomb-like pattern. Closed-cell stratocumulus has cloud in the middle of the cell with clear areas along the edges of the cell. Open-cell stratocumulus has the opposite - cloud around the edges and an open area in the middle.

When we use the Ronald Brown's radar to observe drizzle, the drizzle patterns match the arrangement of the clouds for a given cell. The image for this postcard shows a radar scan from the Ronald Brown that captures the drizzle around an open cell. The ring-shaped pattern in the lower right denotes the drizzle that we expect to see around the edges of open-cell stratocumulus clouds.

VOCALS Research Results

Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What is VOCALS?

What if you wanted to learn more about the climate system of a very large area such as the Southeast Pacific Ocean? What would be involved in studying how the oceans, land, and atmosphere interact? You...more


Drizzle is light precipitation that is made up of liquid water drops that are smaller than rain drops. Drizzle can be so light that only a millimeter of accumulation is measured at the Earth's surface....more


Stratocumulus (weather symbol - Sc) clouds consist of water droplets and belong to the Low Cloud (surface-2000m) group. These clouds are low, lumpy, and gray. These clouds can look like cells under a microscope...more

What are the results of VOCALS?

Long after the VOCALS campaign is completed, the scientists’ work will continue. They must process, review, and study the data to determine what has been learned. Many model runs will be made and analyzed....more

Rhea George

Many students in atmospheric science were motivated to enter the field by some fascinating extreme weather event experienced as a child. This was not the case with me. When I was an undergraduate I was...more

Dr. Boris Dewitte

I'm a physical oceanographer interested in climate variability and especially the El Niño phenomenon. Other than the annual cyle of the seasons, El Niño is the largest pulsation of the climate. I'm interested...more

Dr. Paquita Zuidema

Hola! I am originally from the Netherlands and thereafter spent 3 years as a child in the Peruvian Andes, but I have lived most of my life in the United States. I received my bachelor's degree in physics...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA