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Title: Simple Analytical Expressions for Steady-State Vapor Growth and Collision–Coalescence Particle Size Distribution Parameter Profiles

This study derives simple analytical expressions for the theoretical height profiles of particle number concentrations (Nt) and mean volume diameters (Dm) during the steady-state balance of vapor growth and collision–coalescence with sedimentation. These equations are general for both rain and snow gamma size distributions with size-dependent power-law functions that dictate particle fall speeds and masses. For collision–coalescence only,Nt(Dm) decreases (increases) as an exponential function of the radar reflectivity difference between two height layers. For vapor deposition only,Dmincreases as a generalized power law of this reflectivity difference. Simultaneous vapor deposition and collision–coalescence under steady-state conditions with conservation of number, mass, and reflectivity fluxes lead to a coupled set of first-order, nonlinear ordinary differential equations forNtandDm. The solutions to these coupled equations are generalized power-law functions of heightzforDm(z) andNt(z) whereby each variable is related to one another with an exponent that is independent of collision–coalescence efficiency. Compared to observed profiles derived from descending in situ aircraft Lagrangian spiral profiles from the CRYSTAL-FACE field campaign, these analytical solutions can on average capture the height profiles ofNtandDmwithin 8% and 4% of observations, respectively. Steady-state model projections of radar retrievals aloft are shown to produce the correct rapid enhancement of surface snowfall compared to the lowest-available radar retrievals from 500 m MSL. Future studies can utilize these equations alongside radar measurements to estimateNtandDmbelow radar tilt elevations and to estimate uncertain microphysical parameters such as collision–coalescence efficiencies.

Significance Statement

While complex numerical models are often used to describe weather phenomenon, sometimes simple equations can instead provide equally good or comparable results. Thus, these simple equations can be used in place of more complicated models in certain situations and this replacement can allow for computationally efficient and elegant solutions. This study derives such simple equations in terms of exponential and power-law mathematical functions that describe how the average size and total number of snow or rain particles change at different atmospheric height levels due to growth from the vapor phase and aggregation (the sticking together) of these particles balanced with their fallout from clouds. We catalog these mathematical equations for different assumptions of particle characteristics and we then test these equations using spirally descending aircraft observations and ground-based measurements. Overall, we show that these mathematical equations, despite their simplicity, are capable of accurately describing the magnitude and shape of observed height and time series profiles of particle sizes and numbers. These equations can be used by researchers and forecasters along with radar measurements to improve the understanding of precipitation and the estimation of its properties.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
American Meteorological Society
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Medium: X Size: p. 2531-2544
["p. 2531-2544"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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