Polarimetric radar and surface-based precipitation-type observations of ice pellet to freezing rain transitions

Dana M. Tobin, Matthew R. Kumjian

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Abstract

Recent studies document a polarimetric radar signature of refreezing. The signature is characterized by a low-level enhancement in differential reflectivity ZDR and a decrease in the copolar correlation coefficient ρhv within a region of decreasing radar reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization ZH toward the ground, called the refreezing layer (RFL). The evolution of the signature is examined during three winter storms in which the surface precipitation-type transitions from ice pellets to freezing rain. A modified quasi-vertical profile (QVP) technique is developed, which creates inverse-distance-weighted profiles using all available polarimetric data within a specified range from the radar location. Using this new technique reveals that the RFL descends in time prior to the transition from ice pellets to freezing rain and intersects the ground at the approximate transition time. Transition times are estimated using both crowdsourced and automated precipitation-type reports within a specified domain around the radar. These radar-estimated transition times are compared to a recently developed precipitation-classification algorithm based on Rapid Refresh (RAP) model wet-bulb temperature Tw profiles to explore potential benefits of analyzing QVPs during transition events. The descent of the RFL in the cases analyzed herein is related to low-level warm-air advection (WAA). A simple method for forecasting the transition time using QVPs is presented for cases of constant WAA. The repeatability of the refreezing signature's descent in ice pellet to freezing rain transition events suggests the potential for its use in operational settings to create or modify short-term forecasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2065-2082
Number of pages18
JournalWeather and Forecasting
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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