A general drop size distribution (DSD) normalization method is formulated in terms of generalized power series relating any DSD moment to any number and combination of reference moments. This provides a consistent framework for comparing the variability of normalized DSD moments using different sets of reference moments, with no explicit assumptions about the DSD functional form (e.g., gamma). It also provides a method to derive any unknown moment plus an estimate of its uncertainty from one or more known moments, which is relevant to remote sensing retrievals and bulk microphysics schemes in weather and climate models. The approach is applied to a large dataset of disdrometer-observed and bin microphysics-modeled DSDs. As expected, the spread of normalized moments decreases as the number of reference moments is increased, quantified by the logarithmic standard deviation of the normalized moments, σ. Averaging σ for all combinations of reference moments and normalized moments of integer order 0–10, 42.9%, 81.3%, 93.7%, and 96.9% of spread are accounted for applying one-, two-, three-, and four-moment normalizations, respectively. Thus, DSDs can be well characterized overall using three reference moments, whereas adding a fourth reference moment contributes little independent information. The spread of disdrometer-observed DSD moments from uncertainty associated with drop count statistics generally lies between values of σ using two- and three-moment normalizations. However, this uncertainty has little impact on the derived DSD scaling relationships or σ when considered.
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