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Microphysics of Raindrop Size Spectra: Tropical Continental and Maritime Storms

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  • 1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
  • | 2 Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
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Abstract

This work uses raindrop size spectra measured at the surface in tropical continental storms to determine the associated parameters of the best-fit gamma distributions. The physical processes responsible for those parameters and their relations to the measurable radar reflectivity Z and differential reflectivity ZDR are then explored. So too are their relations to quantitative measurements of rain. Comparison is then made with corresponding features previously reported in tropical maritime regimes. The storms observed in Brazil and Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have been divided into convective (C), transition (T), and stratiform (S) segments. The raindrop size distribution (DSD) parameters are clearly defined on a gamma parameter diagram (GPD) that shows 1) how median volume drop size D0 increases from S to T to C segments of the rain while 2) the range of the spectrum breadth parameter μ increases, and the range of the slope parameter Λ decreases in the same sequence of S to C. Drop growth occurs predominantly below the 0°C level by collision, coalescence, and breakup in the C rains. The median volume diameter D0 grows as more of the water is concentrated near that size and so the DSD narrows; that is, both μ and Λ increase. In both maritime and continental storms the DSD in the convective portion of the storm approaches equilibrium. The coefficient A in the Z = ARb relation increases with D0 while the exponent b approaches unity. The D0 and A pair increase with, and appear to be determined largely by, the updraft strength, thus providing a possible means of determining the appropriate algorithms for rainfall measurement. Although the small drop number samples measured by the surface disdrometer relative to the large volumes sampled by a radar tend to truncate the DSD at both small and large drop sizes, narrow distributions with μ = 5 to 12 cannot be attributed to such an effect. Such narrow DSDs accord with common experience of monodispersed large drops at the beginning of a convective storm. There is also remarkable agreement of the surface-based observations of ZDR–Z–D0 with the time–space variations from C to T to S rain types observed by radar in England and elsewhere. Because the C region of a storm often accounts for a major share of the rain accumulation despite its shorter duration, it is particularly important to measure that region more accurately. There are distinctive clusters of the generalized number parameter NW versus D0 between maritime and continental storms. Methods for remote sensing and parameterization must partition the rainstorms into convective, transition, and stratiform segments.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Carlton W. Ulbrich, 106 Highland Drive, Clemson, SC 29631. Email: cwu@nctv.com

Abstract

This work uses raindrop size spectra measured at the surface in tropical continental storms to determine the associated parameters of the best-fit gamma distributions. The physical processes responsible for those parameters and their relations to the measurable radar reflectivity Z and differential reflectivity ZDR are then explored. So too are their relations to quantitative measurements of rain. Comparison is then made with corresponding features previously reported in tropical maritime regimes. The storms observed in Brazil and Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have been divided into convective (C), transition (T), and stratiform (S) segments. The raindrop size distribution (DSD) parameters are clearly defined on a gamma parameter diagram (GPD) that shows 1) how median volume drop size D0 increases from S to T to C segments of the rain while 2) the range of the spectrum breadth parameter μ increases, and the range of the slope parameter Λ decreases in the same sequence of S to C. Drop growth occurs predominantly below the 0°C level by collision, coalescence, and breakup in the C rains. The median volume diameter D0 grows as more of the water is concentrated near that size and so the DSD narrows; that is, both μ and Λ increase. In both maritime and continental storms the DSD in the convective portion of the storm approaches equilibrium. The coefficient A in the Z = ARb relation increases with D0 while the exponent b approaches unity. The D0 and A pair increase with, and appear to be determined largely by, the updraft strength, thus providing a possible means of determining the appropriate algorithms for rainfall measurement. Although the small drop number samples measured by the surface disdrometer relative to the large volumes sampled by a radar tend to truncate the DSD at both small and large drop sizes, narrow distributions with μ = 5 to 12 cannot be attributed to such an effect. Such narrow DSDs accord with common experience of monodispersed large drops at the beginning of a convective storm. There is also remarkable agreement of the surface-based observations of ZDR–Z–D0 with the time–space variations from C to T to S rain types observed by radar in England and elsewhere. Because the C region of a storm often accounts for a major share of the rain accumulation despite its shorter duration, it is particularly important to measure that region more accurately. There are distinctive clusters of the generalized number parameter NW versus D0 between maritime and continental storms. Methods for remote sensing and parameterization must partition the rainstorms into convective, transition, and stratiform segments.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Carlton W. Ulbrich, 106 Highland Drive, Clemson, SC 29631. Email: cwu@nctv.com

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