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Passive Microwave Brightness Temperatures as Proxies for Hailstorms

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  • 1 Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
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Abstract

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite has been used to infer distributions of intense thunderstorms. Besides the lightning measurements from TRMM, the radar reflectivities and passive microwave brightness temperatures have been used as proxies for convective vigor. This is based on large graupel or hail lofted by strong updrafts being the cause of high–radar reflectivity values aloft and extremely low brightness temperatures. This paper seeks to empirically confirm that extremely low brightness temperatures are often accompanied by large hail at the surface. The three frequencies examined (85, 37, and 19 GHz) all show an increasing likelihood of hail reports with decreasing brightness temperature. Quantification is limited by the sparsity of hail reports. Hail reports are common when brightness temperatures are below 70 K at 85 GHz, 180 K at 37 GHz, or 230 K at 19 GHz.

Corresponding author address: Daniel J. Cecil, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 320 Sparkman Dr. NW, Huntsville, AL 35805. Email: cecild@uah.edu

Abstract

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite has been used to infer distributions of intense thunderstorms. Besides the lightning measurements from TRMM, the radar reflectivities and passive microwave brightness temperatures have been used as proxies for convective vigor. This is based on large graupel or hail lofted by strong updrafts being the cause of high–radar reflectivity values aloft and extremely low brightness temperatures. This paper seeks to empirically confirm that extremely low brightness temperatures are often accompanied by large hail at the surface. The three frequencies examined (85, 37, and 19 GHz) all show an increasing likelihood of hail reports with decreasing brightness temperature. Quantification is limited by the sparsity of hail reports. Hail reports are common when brightness temperatures are below 70 K at 85 GHz, 180 K at 37 GHz, or 230 K at 19 GHz.

Corresponding author address: Daniel J. Cecil, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 320 Sparkman Dr. NW, Huntsville, AL 35805. Email: cecild@uah.edu

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