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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 28, 2024
  2. Abstract Quasi-vertical profiles (QVPs) of polarimetric radar data have emerged as a powerful tool for studying precipitation microphysics. Various studies have found enhancements in specific differential phase K dp in regions of suspected secondary ice production (SIP) due to rime splintering. Similar K dp enhancements have also been found in regions of sublimating snow, another proposed SIP process. This work explores these K dp signatures for two cases of sublimating snow using nearly collocated S- and Ka-band radars. The presence of the signature was inconsistent between the radars, prompting exploration of alternative causes. Idealized simulations are performed using a radar beam-broadening model to explore the impact of nonuniform beam filling (NBF) on the observed reflectivity Z and K dp within the sublimation layer. Rather than an intrinsic increase in ice concentration, the observed K dp enhancements can instead be explained by NBF in the presence of sharp vertical gradients of Z and K dp within the sublimation zone, which results in a K dp bias dipole. The severity of the bias is sensitive to the Z gradient and radar beamwidth and elevation angle, which explains its appearance at only one radar. In addition, differences in scanning strategies and range thresholds during QVP processing can constructively enhance these positive K dp biases by excluding the negative portion of the dipole. These results highlight the need to consider NBF effects in regions not traditionally considered (e.g., in pure snow) due to the increased K dp fidelity afforded by QVPs and the subsequent ramifications this has on the observability of sublimational SIP. Significance Statement Many different processes can cause snowflakes to break apart into numerous tiny pieces, including when they evaporate into dry air. Purported evidence of this phenomenon has been seen in data from some weather radars, but we noticed it was not seen in data from others. In this work we use case studies and models to show that this signature may actually be an artifact from the radar beam becoming too big and there being too much variability of the precipitation within it. While this breakup process may actually be occurring in reality, these results suggest we may have trouble observing it with typical weather radars. 
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  3. Abstract

    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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  4. Abstract This study evaluates ice particle size distribution and aspect ratio φ Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) dual-polarization radar retrievals through a direct comparison with two legs of observational aircraft data obtained during a winter storm case from the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) campaign. In situ cloud probes, satellite, and MRMS observations illustrate that the often-observed K dp and Z DR enhancement regions in the dendritic growth layer can either indicate a local number concentration increase of dry ice particles or the presence of ice particles mixed with a significant number of supercooled liquid droplets. Relative to in situ measurements, MRMS retrievals on average underestimated mean volume diameters by 50% and overestimated number concentrations by over 100%. IWC retrievals using Z DR and K dp within the dendritic growth layer were minimally biased relative to in situ calculations where retrievals yielded −2% median relative error for the entire aircraft leg. Incorporating φ retrievals decreased both the magnitude and spread of polarimetric retrievals below the dendritic growth layer. While φ radar retrievals suggest that observed dendritic growth layer particles were nonspherical (0.1 ≤ φ ≤ 0.2), in situ projected aspect ratios, idealized numerical simulations, and habit classifications from cloud probe images suggest that the population mean φ was generally much higher. Coordinated aircraft radar reflectivity with in situ observations suggests that the MRMS systematically underestimated reflectivity and could not resolve local peaks in mean volume diameter sizes. These results highlight the need to consider particle assumptions and radar limitations when performing retrievals. significance statement Developing snow is often detectable using weather radars. Meteorologists combine these radar measurements with mathematical equations to study how snow forms in order to determine how much snow will fall. This study evaluates current methods for estimating the total number and mass, sizes, and shapes of snowflakes from radar using images of individual snowflakes taken during two aircraft legs. Radar estimates of snowflake properties were most consistent with aircraft data inside regions with prominent radar signatures. However, radar estimates of snowflake shapes were not consistent with observed shapes estimated from the snowflake images. Although additional research is needed, these results bolster understanding of snow-growth physics and uncertainties between radar measurements and snow production that can improve future snowfall forecasting. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Snow aggregate shapes and orientations have long been known to exhibit substantial variability. Despite this observed variability, most weather and climate prediction models use fixed power-law functions that deterministically map particle size to mass and fall speed. As such, integrated quantities like precipitation and self-aggregation rates currently ignore nonlinear effects resulting from variation in shape and orientation for aggregates of the same size. This study therefore develops an analytic framework that couples an empirically based bivariate distribution of ellipsoid shapes to classical hydrodynamic theory so as to capture an appropriate dispersion of masses, projected areas, and fall speeds for an assumed size distribution. For a fixed aggregate size, shape variations produce approximately ±0.13 m s −1 standard deviation of fall speed which increases the mass flux fall speed dispersion by more than 100% over traditional microphysics models. This increased fall speed dispersion results predominantly from shape-induced mass dispersion whereas orientation and drag dispersion play a lesser role. Shape variations can increase mass- and reflectivity-weighted fall speeds by up to 60% of traditional models whereas self-aggregation rates can increase by a factor of 100 for very small slope parameters. This implies that aggregate shape variations effectively forestall the theorized onset of fall speed distribution narrowing and subsequent quenching of the aggregation process. As a result, it is likely that secondary ice formation is necessary to prevent an ever decreasing slope parameter. The mathematical theory presented in this study is used to develop simple correction factors for snow forecast and climate models. 
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