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Radar Refractivity Retrieval: Validation and Application to Short-Term Forecasting

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  • a Earth Observing Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • b Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • c Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
  • d Earth Observing Laboratory and Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research,* Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

This study will validate the S-band dual-polarization Doppler radar (S-Pol) radar refractivity retrieval using measurements from the International H2O Project conducted in the southern Great Plains in May–June 2002. The range of refractivity measurements during this project extended out to 40–60 km from the radar. Comparisons between the radar refractivity field and fixed and mobile mesonet refractivity values within the S-Pol refractivity domain show a strong correlation. Comparisons between the radar refractivity field and low-flying aircraft also show high correlations. Thus, the radar refractivity retrieval provides a good representation of low-level atmospheric refractivity. Numerous instruments that profile the temperature and moisture are also compared with the refractivity field. Radiosonde measurements, Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometers, and a vertical-pointing Raman lidar show good agreement, especially at low levels. Under most daytime summertime conditions, radar refractivity measurements are representative of an ∼250-m-deep layer. Analyses are also performed on the utility of refractivity for short-term forecasting applications. It is found that the refractivity field may detect low-level boundaries prior to the more traditional radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity fields showing their existence. Data from two days on which convection initiated within S-Pol refractivity range suggest that the refractivity field may exhibit some potential utility in forecasting convection initiation. This study suggests that unprecedented advances in mapping near-surface water vapor and subsequent improvements in predicting convective storms could result from implementing the radar refractivity retrieval on the national network of operational radars.

Corresponding author address: Tammy M. Weckwerth, Earth Observing Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. tammy@ucar.edu

Abstract

This study will validate the S-band dual-polarization Doppler radar (S-Pol) radar refractivity retrieval using measurements from the International H2O Project conducted in the southern Great Plains in May–June 2002. The range of refractivity measurements during this project extended out to 40–60 km from the radar. Comparisons between the radar refractivity field and fixed and mobile mesonet refractivity values within the S-Pol refractivity domain show a strong correlation. Comparisons between the radar refractivity field and low-flying aircraft also show high correlations. Thus, the radar refractivity retrieval provides a good representation of low-level atmospheric refractivity. Numerous instruments that profile the temperature and moisture are also compared with the refractivity field. Radiosonde measurements, Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometers, and a vertical-pointing Raman lidar show good agreement, especially at low levels. Under most daytime summertime conditions, radar refractivity measurements are representative of an ∼250-m-deep layer. Analyses are also performed on the utility of refractivity for short-term forecasting applications. It is found that the refractivity field may detect low-level boundaries prior to the more traditional radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity fields showing their existence. Data from two days on which convection initiated within S-Pol refractivity range suggest that the refractivity field may exhibit some potential utility in forecasting convection initiation. This study suggests that unprecedented advances in mapping near-surface water vapor and subsequent improvements in predicting convective storms could result from implementing the radar refractivity retrieval on the national network of operational radars.

Corresponding author address: Tammy M. Weckwerth, Earth Observing Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, P.O. Box 3000, Boulder, CO 80307-3000. tammy@ucar.edu

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