On the Radar Detection of Cloud Seeding Effects in Wintertime Orographic Cloud Systems

Troy J. Zaremba aDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
bDepartment of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York

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Robert M. Rauber aDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Larry Di Girolamo aDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Jesse R. Loveridge aDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, Illinois

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Greg M. McFarquhar cCooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
dSchool of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

Recent studies from the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) demonstrated definitive radar evidence of seeding signatures in winter orographic clouds during three intensive operation periods (IOPs) where the background signal from natural precipitation was weak and a radar signal attributable to seeding could be identified as traceable seeding lines. Except for the three IOPs where seeding was detected, background natural snowfall was present during seeding operations and no clear seeding signatures were detected. This paper provides a quantitative analysis to assess if orographic cloud seeding effects are detectable using radar when background precipitation is present. We show that a 5-dB change in equivalent reflectivity factor Ze is required to stand out against background natural Ze variability. This analysis considers four radar wavelengths, a range of background ice water contents (IWC) from 0.012 to 1.214 g m−3, and additional IWC introduced by seeding ranging from 0.012 to 0.486 g m−3. The upper-limit values of seeded IWC are based on measurements of IWC from the Nevzorov probe employed on the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft during SNOWIE. This analysis implies that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar within background snowfall unless the background IWC is small, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation.

Significance Statement

Operational glaciogenic seeding programs targeting wintertime orographic clouds are funded by a range of stakeholders to increase snowpack. Glaciogenic seeding signatures have been observed by radar when natural background snowfall is weak but never when heavy background precipitation was present. This analysis quantitatively shows that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar reflectivity under conditions of background snowfall unless the background snowfall is weak, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation. Alternative assessment methods such as trace element analysis in snow, aircraft measurements, precipitation measurements, and modeling should be used to determine the efficacy of orographic cloud seeding when heavy background precipitation is present.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Troy J. Zaremba, tzaremb2@illinois.edu

Abstract

Recent studies from the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) demonstrated definitive radar evidence of seeding signatures in winter orographic clouds during three intensive operation periods (IOPs) where the background signal from natural precipitation was weak and a radar signal attributable to seeding could be identified as traceable seeding lines. Except for the three IOPs where seeding was detected, background natural snowfall was present during seeding operations and no clear seeding signatures were detected. This paper provides a quantitative analysis to assess if orographic cloud seeding effects are detectable using radar when background precipitation is present. We show that a 5-dB change in equivalent reflectivity factor Ze is required to stand out against background natural Ze variability. This analysis considers four radar wavelengths, a range of background ice water contents (IWC) from 0.012 to 1.214 g m−3, and additional IWC introduced by seeding ranging from 0.012 to 0.486 g m−3. The upper-limit values of seeded IWC are based on measurements of IWC from the Nevzorov probe employed on the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft during SNOWIE. This analysis implies that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar within background snowfall unless the background IWC is small, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation.

Significance Statement

Operational glaciogenic seeding programs targeting wintertime orographic clouds are funded by a range of stakeholders to increase snowpack. Glaciogenic seeding signatures have been observed by radar when natural background snowfall is weak but never when heavy background precipitation was present. This analysis quantitatively shows that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar reflectivity under conditions of background snowfall unless the background snowfall is weak, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation. Alternative assessment methods such as trace element analysis in snow, aircraft measurements, precipitation measurements, and modeling should be used to determine the efficacy of orographic cloud seeding when heavy background precipitation is present.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Troy J. Zaremba, tzaremb2@illinois.edu
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