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Raindrop Size Distribution Measurements in Tropical Cyclones

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  • 1 Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 2 Computer Sciences Corporation, NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia
  • | 3 Department of Civil Engineering, and Center for Louisiana Water Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
  • | 4 School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
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Abstract

Characteristics of the raindrop size distribution in seven tropical cyclones have been studied through impact-type disdrometer measurements at three different sites during the 2004–06 Atlantic hurricane seasons. One of the cyclones has been observed at two different sites. High concentrations of small and/or midsize drops were observed in the presence or absence of large drops. Even in the presence of large drops, the maximum drop diameter rarely exceeded 4 mm. These characteristics of raindrop size distribution were observed in all stages of tropical cyclones, unless the storm was in the extratropical stage where the tropical cyclone and a midlatitude frontal system had merged. The presence of relatively high concentrations of large drops in extratropical cyclones resembled the size distribution in continental thunderstorms. The integral rain parameters of drop concentration, liquid water content, and rain rate at fixed reflectivity were therefore lower in extratropical cyclones than in tropical cyclones. In tropical cyclones, at a disdrometer-calculated reflectivity of 40 dBZ, the number concentration was 700 ± 100 drops m−3, while the liquid water content and rain rate were 0.90 ± 0.05 g m−3 and 18.5 ± 0.5 mm h−1, respectively. The mean mass diameter, on the other hand, was 1.67 ± 0.3 mm. The comparison of raindrop size distributions between Atlantic tropical cyclones and storms that occurred in the central tropical Pacific island of Roi-Namur revealed that the number density is slightly shifted toward smaller drops, resulting in higher-integral rain parameters and lower mean mass and maximum drop diameters at the latter site. Considering parameterization of the raindrop size distribution in tropical cyclones, characteristics of the normalized gamma distribution parameters were examined with respect to reflectivity. The mean mass diameter increased rapidly with reflectivity, while the normalized intercept parameter had an increasing trend with reflectivity. The shape parameter, on the other hand, decreased in a reflectivity range from 10 to 20 dBZ and remained steady at higher reflectivities. Considering the repeatability of the characteristics of the raindrop size distribution, a second impact disdrometer that was located 5.3 km away from the primary site in Wallops Island, Virginia, had similar size spectra in selected tropical cyclones.

Corresponding author address: Ali Tokay, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 613.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: tokay@radar.gsfc.nasa.gov

Abstract

Characteristics of the raindrop size distribution in seven tropical cyclones have been studied through impact-type disdrometer measurements at three different sites during the 2004–06 Atlantic hurricane seasons. One of the cyclones has been observed at two different sites. High concentrations of small and/or midsize drops were observed in the presence or absence of large drops. Even in the presence of large drops, the maximum drop diameter rarely exceeded 4 mm. These characteristics of raindrop size distribution were observed in all stages of tropical cyclones, unless the storm was in the extratropical stage where the tropical cyclone and a midlatitude frontal system had merged. The presence of relatively high concentrations of large drops in extratropical cyclones resembled the size distribution in continental thunderstorms. The integral rain parameters of drop concentration, liquid water content, and rain rate at fixed reflectivity were therefore lower in extratropical cyclones than in tropical cyclones. In tropical cyclones, at a disdrometer-calculated reflectivity of 40 dBZ, the number concentration was 700 ± 100 drops m−3, while the liquid water content and rain rate were 0.90 ± 0.05 g m−3 and 18.5 ± 0.5 mm h−1, respectively. The mean mass diameter, on the other hand, was 1.67 ± 0.3 mm. The comparison of raindrop size distributions between Atlantic tropical cyclones and storms that occurred in the central tropical Pacific island of Roi-Namur revealed that the number density is slightly shifted toward smaller drops, resulting in higher-integral rain parameters and lower mean mass and maximum drop diameters at the latter site. Considering parameterization of the raindrop size distribution in tropical cyclones, characteristics of the normalized gamma distribution parameters were examined with respect to reflectivity. The mean mass diameter increased rapidly with reflectivity, while the normalized intercept parameter had an increasing trend with reflectivity. The shape parameter, on the other hand, decreased in a reflectivity range from 10 to 20 dBZ and remained steady at higher reflectivities. Considering the repeatability of the characteristics of the raindrop size distribution, a second impact disdrometer that was located 5.3 km away from the primary site in Wallops Island, Virginia, had similar size spectra in selected tropical cyclones.

Corresponding author address: Ali Tokay, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 613.1, Greenbelt, MD 20771. Email: tokay@radar.gsfc.nasa.gov

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