Quantitative Assessment of Operational Weather Radar Rainfall Estimates over California’s Northern Sonoma County Using HMT-West Data

Sergey Y. Matrosov Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder,and NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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F. Martin Ralph NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Paul J. Neiman NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Allen B. White NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

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Abstract

An evaluation of Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) KMUX and KDAX radar quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) over a site in California’s northern Sonoma County is performed and rain type climatology is presented. This site is next to the flood-prone Russian River basin and, because of the mountainous terrain and remoteness from operational radars, is generally believed to lack adequate coverage. QPE comparisons were conducted for multiyear observations with concurrent classification of rainfall structure using measurements from a gauge and an S-band profiler deployed at the location of interest. The radars were able to detect most of the brightband (BB) rain, which contributed over half of the total precipitation. For this rain type hourly radar-based QPE obtained with a default vertical profile of reflectivity correction provided results with errors of about 50%–60%. The operational radars did not detect precipitation during about 30% of the total rainy hours with mostly shallow nonbrightband (NBB) rain, which, depending on the radar, provided ~(12%–15%) of the total precipitation. The accuracy of radar-based QPE for the detected fraction of NBB rain was rather poor with large negative biases and characteristic errors of around 80%. On some occasions, radars falsely detected precipitation when observing high clouds, which did not precipitate or coexisted with shallow rain (less than 10% of total accumulation). For heavier rain with a significant fraction of BB hourly periods, radar QPE for event totals showed relatively good agreement with gauge data. Cancelation of errors of opposite signs contributed, in part, to such agreement. On average, KDAX-based QPE was biased low compared to KMUX.

Current affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Sergey Y. Matrosov, University of Colorado, CIRES, R/PSD2, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. E-mail: sergey.matrosov@noaa.gov

Abstract

An evaluation of Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) KMUX and KDAX radar quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) over a site in California’s northern Sonoma County is performed and rain type climatology is presented. This site is next to the flood-prone Russian River basin and, because of the mountainous terrain and remoteness from operational radars, is generally believed to lack adequate coverage. QPE comparisons were conducted for multiyear observations with concurrent classification of rainfall structure using measurements from a gauge and an S-band profiler deployed at the location of interest. The radars were able to detect most of the brightband (BB) rain, which contributed over half of the total precipitation. For this rain type hourly radar-based QPE obtained with a default vertical profile of reflectivity correction provided results with errors of about 50%–60%. The operational radars did not detect precipitation during about 30% of the total rainy hours with mostly shallow nonbrightband (NBB) rain, which, depending on the radar, provided ~(12%–15%) of the total precipitation. The accuracy of radar-based QPE for the detected fraction of NBB rain was rather poor with large negative biases and characteristic errors of around 80%. On some occasions, radars falsely detected precipitation when observing high clouds, which did not precipitate or coexisted with shallow rain (less than 10% of total accumulation). For heavier rain with a significant fraction of BB hourly periods, radar QPE for event totals showed relatively good agreement with gauge data. Cancelation of errors of opposite signs contributed, in part, to such agreement. On average, KDAX-based QPE was biased low compared to KMUX.

Current affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California.

Corresponding author address: Sergey Y. Matrosov, University of Colorado, CIRES, R/PSD2, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305. E-mail: sergey.matrosov@noaa.gov
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