Ray Curvature on a Flat Earth for Computing Virtual WSR-88D Signatures of Simulated Supercell Storms

Robert Davies-Jones NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Vincent T. Wood NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

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Mark A. Askelson Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Abstract

Two accepted postulates for applications of ground-based weather radars are that Earth’s surface is a perfect sphere and that all the rays launched at low-elevation angles have the same constant small curvature. To accommodate a straight vertically launched ray, we amend the second postulate by making the ray curvature dependent on the cosine of the launch angle. A standard atmospheric stratification determines the ray-curvature value at zero launch angle. Granted this amended postulate, we develop exact formulas for ray height, ground range, and ray slope angle as functions of slant range and launch angle on the real Earth. Standard practice assumes a hypothetical equivalent magnified earth, for which the rays become straight while ray height above radar level remains virtually the same function of the radar coordinates. The real-Earth and equivalent-earth formulas for height agree to within 1 m. Our ultimate goal is to place a virtual Doppler radar within a numerical or analytical model of a supercell and compute virtual signatures of simulated storms for development and testing of new warning algorithms. Since supercell models have a flat lower boundary, we must first compute the ray curvature that preserves the height function as the earth curvature tends to zero. Using an approximate height formula, we find that keeping planetary curvature minus the ray curvature at zero launch angle constant preserves ray height to within 5 m. For standard refraction the resulting ray curvature is negative, indicating that rays bend concavely upward relative to a flat earth.

Emeritus.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Vincent T. Wood, vincent.wood@noaa.gov

Abstract

Two accepted postulates for applications of ground-based weather radars are that Earth’s surface is a perfect sphere and that all the rays launched at low-elevation angles have the same constant small curvature. To accommodate a straight vertically launched ray, we amend the second postulate by making the ray curvature dependent on the cosine of the launch angle. A standard atmospheric stratification determines the ray-curvature value at zero launch angle. Granted this amended postulate, we develop exact formulas for ray height, ground range, and ray slope angle as functions of slant range and launch angle on the real Earth. Standard practice assumes a hypothetical equivalent magnified earth, for which the rays become straight while ray height above radar level remains virtually the same function of the radar coordinates. The real-Earth and equivalent-earth formulas for height agree to within 1 m. Our ultimate goal is to place a virtual Doppler radar within a numerical or analytical model of a supercell and compute virtual signatures of simulated storms for development and testing of new warning algorithms. Since supercell models have a flat lower boundary, we must first compute the ray curvature that preserves the height function as the earth curvature tends to zero. Using an approximate height formula, we find that keeping planetary curvature minus the ray curvature at zero launch angle constant preserves ray height to within 5 m. For standard refraction the resulting ray curvature is negative, indicating that rays bend concavely upward relative to a flat earth.

Emeritus.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Vincent T. Wood, vincent.wood@noaa.gov
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