The Refractivity Experiment for H2O Research and Collaborative Operational Technology Transfer (REFRACTT), conducted in northeast Colorado during the summer of 2006, provided a unique opportunity to obtain high-resolution gridded moisture fields from the operational Denver Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) and three research radars using a radar-based index of refraction (refractivity) technique. Until now, it has not been possible to observe and monitor moisture variability in the near-surface boundary layer to such high spatial (4-km horizontal gridpoint spacing) and temporal (4–10-min update rates) resolutions using operational NEXRAD and provide these moisture fields to researchers and the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters in real time. The overarching goals of REFRACTT were to 1) access and mosaic the refractivity data from the operational NEXRAD and research radars together over a large domain for use by NWS forecasters in real time for short-term forecasting, 2) improve our understanding of near-surface water vapor variability and the role it plays in the initiation of convection and thunderstorms, and 3) improve the accuracy of quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) through improved observations and assimilation of low-level moisture fields. This paper presents examples of refractivity-derived moisture fields from REFRACTT in 2006 and the moisture variability observed in the near-surface boundary layer, in association with thunderstorm initiation, and with a cold frontal passage.

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National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

Radar Operations Center, NOAA/National Weather Service, Norman, Oklahoma

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, COSMIC, Boulder, Colorado

Denver Forecast Office, National Weather Service, Boulder, Colorado

University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma