Hail-bearing storms produce substantial socioeconomic impacts each year, yet challenges remain in forecasting the type of hail threat supported by a given environment and in using radar to estimate hail sizes more accurately. One class of hail threat is storms producing large accumulations of small hail (SPLASH). This paper presents an analysis of the environments and polarimetric radar characteristics of such storms. Thirteen SPLASH events were selected to encompass a broad range of geographic regions and times of year. Rapid Refresh model output was used to characterize the mesoscale environments associated with each case. This analysis reveals that a range of environments can support SPLASH cases; however, some commonalities included large precipitable water (exceeding that day’s climatological 90th-percentile values), CAPE < 2500 J kg−1, weak storm-relative wind speeds (<10 m s−1) in the lowest few kilometers of the troposphere, and a weak component of the storm-relative flow orthogonal to the 0–6-km shear vector. Most of the storms were weak supercells that featured distinctive S-band radar signatures, including compact (<200 km2) regions of reflectivity factor > 60 dBZ, significant differential attenuation evident as negative differential reflectivity extending downrange of the hail core, and anomalously large specific differential phase KDP. The KDP values often approached or exceeded the operational color scale’s upper limit (10.7° km−1); reprocessing the level-II data revealed KDP >17° km−1, the highest documented in precipitation at S band. Electromagnetic scattering calculations using the T-matrix method confirm that large quantities of small melting hail mixed with heavy rain can plausibly explain the observed radar signatures.
Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-18-0073.s1.
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