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Snowfall Retrievals Using Millimeter-Wavelength Cloud Radars

Matrosov, S., M. D. Shupe, and I. V. Djalalova (2008), Snowfall Retrievals Using Millimeter-Wavelength Cloud Radars, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 47, 769-777, doi:10.1175/2007JAMC1768.1.

It is demonstrated that millimeter-wavelength radars that are designed primarily for cloud studies can be also used effectively for snowfall retrievals. Radar reflectivity–liquid equivalent snowfall rate (Ze–S) relations specifically tuned for Ka- and W-band radar frequencies are applied to measurements taken by vertically pointing ground-based 8-mm cloud radars (MMCR) that are designed for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program and by the nadir-pointing spaceborne 94-GHz CloudSat radar. Comparisons of the MMCR-based snowfall accumulations estimated during experimental events with no significant snowflake riming and controlled gauge measurements indicated an 87% standard deviation between radar and gauge data that is consistent with the uncertainties in the coefficients of the Ze–S relations resulting from variability in snowflake microphysical properties. Comparisons of CloudSat-based snowfall-rate retrievals in heavy snowfall were consistent with estimates from surface S-band precipitation surveillance radars made using algorithms that were specifically designed for use with these radars. A typical difference between the CloudSat and the S-band precipitation radar estimates of snowfall rate for approximately collocated resolution pixels was within a factor of 2, which is of the order of the uncertainty of each estimate. The results of this study suggest that the ground-based and satellite-borne radars operating at Ka and W bands can provide valuable retrieval information on vertical profiles of snowfall, which is an important component of the global water cycle. This information is particularly important in Arctic regions where precipitation information from other sources is scarce.

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Research Program: 
Applied Sciences Program (ASP)
Atmospheric Dynamics and Precipitation Program (ADP)