Abstract

This paper describes the transformation of the Colorado State University–University of Chicago–Illinois State Water Survey (CSU–CHILL) National Radar Facility from a single-frequency (S band) dual-polarization Doppler weather radar system to a dual-frequency (S and X bands) dual-polarization Doppler system with coaxial beams. A brief history regarding the development of dual-wavelength radars is first presented. In the past, dual-wavelength measurements were used to detect hail using the dual-wavelength ratio defined as the ratio of intrinsic (or attenuation corrected) X-band reflectivity to the S-band reflectivity. Departures of this ratio from unity were taken to indicate the presence of hail, produced by Mie scattering at the shorter wavelength by hail. Most dual-wavelength radars were developed with attempts to match beams for S and X bands, which implies that the sample volumes for the two frequencies were essentially the same. The X-band channel of the CSU–CHILL radar takes a different approach, that of making use of the already existing dual-offset-fed antenna designed to give a 1° beamwidth at S band, resulting in an X-band beamwidth of approximately 0.3°, with very high gain. Thus, the X band provides about a factor of 3 more resolution than the S-band component while maintaining the same sensitivity as the S-band component. Examples of cold season and warm season data from the X-band and S-band radar components are presented, demonstrating the successful transformation of the CSU–CHILL radar into a unique multifrequency, multipolarization system. The new CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength, dual-polarization weather radar will serve as an important asset for the scientific community.

The CSU–CHILL radar can now make simultaneous polarimetric measurements at S and X bands to advance the understanding of precipitation processes.

The Colorado State University–University of Chicago–Illinois State Water Survey (CSU–CHILL) National Radar Facility (Brunkow et al. 2000) located in Greeley, Colorado, is a research facility operated by CSU, under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and CSU. The CSU–CHILL radar has recently gone through a major transformation to add support for simultaneous dual-wavelength (S and X bands), dual-polarization (H and V) radar operation, as well as high polarization purity S- or X-band stand-alone operations (with S band being the portion of the electromagnetic spectrumcomprised inside the 2–4-GHz interval, X band being the portion inside the 8–12-GHz interval, and H referring to a linearly polarized electromagnetic wave with its electric field confined on the horizontal plane, and V referring to a linearly polarized electromagnetic wave with its electric field confined on the vertical plane). This transformation process started with the installation of a low-sidelobe dual-offset Gregorian antenna capable of supporting three different feeds (S band, X band, and simultaneous S and X band all with dual-polarization capability) and culminated with the development and installation of a separate X-band channel dual-polarization radar system. This work had multiple scientific and engineering motivations, ranging from the development of specific dual-wavelength techniques and X-band algorithms that could be validated with collocated S-band data to the observation of a variety of weather phenomena at high spatial resolution and with high polarization purity.

In general, multiple-wavelength radar systems rely on the fact that a given hydrometeor will have a different scattering behavior depending on the wavelength at which it is illuminated, as the relative size of the scatterer with respect to the illuminating wavelength dictates the scattering regime. A small scatterer (i.e., one that is small compared to the illuminating wavelength) will operate in the Rayleigh regime, and one that has a size comparable to the wavelength (or larger) will enter the Mie regime. In addition, shorter wavelengths experience increasing attenuation when propagating through rain. All of these mechanisms are leveraged to infer something about the medium through which the radar waves are propagating.

Earlier dual-wavelength systems were motivated by hail detection and liquid water content estimation. The initial dual-frequency application appears to be hail detection based on multiple wavelength observations of a hailstorm in England (Atlas and Ludlam 1961). The underlying idea was that the scattering signal of the shorter wavelength radar would enter the Mie region before the signal of the longer wavelength radar would, when suitably large hailstones were being observed. In rain, both wavelengths would be in the Rayleigh regime (except for the larger raindrops over 3 mm in diameter), and with proper system calibration the two reflectivities should match (except for the impact of attenuation at the shorter wavelength). Estimation and removal of attenuation at the shorter wavelength (X band in this era) proved to be a difficult problem. This caused Eccles and Atlas (1973) to propose using the range derivative of the ZS/ZX power ratio (where DWR = ZS/ZX is defined as the dual-wavelength ratio, with ZS being the radar reflectivity at S band and ZX being the radar reflectivity at X band) to identify hail boundaries. It was thought that the location of a sharp negative d(DWR)/dr range derivative would accurately mark the far edge of the hail shaft. Additional experience with the derivative method resulted in rather confusing results. Jameson and Srivastava (1978) eventually showed that range variations in hailstone diameter and/or water coating could also cause significant fluctuations in the d(DWR)/dr derivative. From this point on, the derivative method was abandoned and the basic attenuation-corrected DWR was used for hail detection. One of the first major applications of this dual-frequency hail signal was in an analysis of hail growth in a National Hail Research Experiment (NHRE) storm using CP2 data (Jameson and Heymsfield 1980) (CP2 was a dual-wavelength S- and X-band research radar built and operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that initially used separate pedestals and antennas for each frequency). Rinehart and Tuttle (1982) argued that pattern-matching artifacts had the potential to bias the hail signal. CP2 converted to the X-band antenna(s) being mounted on the S-band pedestal in the 1980s, and in this configuration, attenuation-corrected DWR power ratio data were included in several research results: correlations of Zdr [differential reflectivity, obtained as the difference in reflectivity (dBZ) at horizontal and vertical polarization] and dual-frequency indication of hail (Bringi et al. 1986b), hydrometeor identification in an evolving microburst [Microburst and Severe Thunderstorm (MIST) Project; Tuttle et al. 1989], and hail patterns in a range–height indicator (RHI) scan (Herzegh and Jameson 1992).

While dual-wavelength hail identification methods depended upon Mie scattering, efforts to estimate liquid water content (LWC) from differential attenuation at S and X bands worked best in all liquid conditions when Rayleigh scattering was present at both frequencies (Eccles and Mueller 1971). Eccles (1979) also proposed a method of using dual-frequency data to estimate rain rates. The effects of Mie scattering are significant enough that Gaussiat et al. (2003) used a three-frequency approach (S, Ka, and W bands) to improve LWC estimation in RHIs through rain showers. Frequency pairs shorter than the S–X combination used by CSU-CHILL have also been used in recent years for dual-frequency applications. As some examples, Vivekanandan et al. (2001) used X and Ka bands for the detection of supercooled water to identify aircraft icing hazards, and Chandrasekar et al. (2010) used Ka and Ku bands to document dual-frequency observations for Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) ground validation.

The CSU–CHILL radar is designed to address the technical challenges posed by simultaneous dual-wavelength measurements through the use of a single-antenna feed illuminating the same reflector at both wavelengths. To maintain appropriate performance at both wavelengths, the radar undergoes periodic characterization of end-to-end system gain using calibration sphere flights and through the continuous monitoring of transmitter and receiver performance.

MOTIVATION FOR THE CSU–CHILL X-BAND COMPONENT.

The key motivating factor in the addition of the X-band component was the enhanced resolution achievable by the CSU–CHILL offset feed antenna at X band through its capability to accommodate different feedhorn units (S band, X band, and simultaneous S and X bands all with dual-polarization capability) to create single- and dual-wavelength, dual-polarization datasets. This is a key feature of the CSU–CHILL radar and a differentiating factor from other weather radar systems. However, this is also a departure from traditional dual-wavelength radar systems with matched beams and the associated techniques developed for those. The main issue becomes the possibility of nonuniform beamfilling effects between the 1° beamwidth at S band and the 0.3° beamwidth at X band. In general though, it should be noted that it is possible to synthesize a larger 1° beam from the X-band higher-resolution data that matches the corresponding S-band beam (as demonstrated later in Fig. 12) or that one can analyze the statistical properties of the multiple X-band beams that fall inside the corresponding S-band beam (as shown in Fig. 10) as ways to determine whether such nonuniform beamfilling effects might be occurring.

Another important motivating factor is the investigation of attenuation correction schemes. With X-band radar systems becoming an increasingly popular technology, there is a continued need to address the particular issues that arise in higher-frequency systems such as range–Doppler ambiguity coupling and signal attenuation. The availability of a dual-polarization dataset at both S and X bands from coaxial beams is a new feature available to the research community that should allow improvements to be made in the postprocessed X-band data fields and verified against their nonattenuated S-band counterparts (with CP2 being able to measure the linear depolarization ratio but no copolar variables at X band; Atlas 1990).

Another potential area of application of the dual-wavelength, dual-polarization CSU–CHILL dataset is in developing the capability to independently identify Mie scattering effects in the X-band data. This may be accomplished by examining the X-band polarimetric variables and verifying against the historical comparison of the X- and S-band reflectivities. Reliable identification of Mie scattering at X band versus S band could be used to estimate hydrometeor size.

The X- and S-band reflectivity difference could also be used to identify Bragg scattering (scattering caused by sharp gradients in the refractive index of the atmosphere): in clear air and/or first echo applications such as those discussed by Knight and Miller (1993), the signal extinction challenges disappear and the difference between reflectivities at the different wavelengths can be attributed to the wavelength sensitivity to different scattering mechanisms. The dual-wavelength data collected so far have many examples of differing S- and X-band reflectivities in gust fronts, boundary rolls, etc.

Finally, another significant motivating factor was the potential X-band stand-alone capabilities. The higher spatial resolution allows studies of small-scale features, such as individual cumulonimbus clouds, gust front circulations, and microbursts, while the greater differential phase sensitivity should enhance the analysis of winter storm patterns, such as crystal growth; summer storm patterns, such as the identification of electrification morphology (Caylor and Chandrasekar 1996); and general rainfall estimation applications, especially for lighter rain rates.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CSU–CHILL RADAR SYSTEM.

The CSU–CHILL radar is housed inside an inflatable radome and uses a 9-m parabolic dual-offset reflector antenna (Bringi et al. 2011) mounted on an elevation over an azimuthal positioner system as shown in Fig. 1. The antenna is illuminated using one of three interchangeable feeds, allowing the system to operate at S and X bands and at simultaneous S and X bands as required. This level of flexibility allows better tailoring of the radar performance to the specific application and data purpose; the characteristics of the combined dual-frequency, dual-polarization feed, while good in its own metrics, are not as refined as that of the single-frequency units. The resulting antenna beams are conceptually illustrated in Fig. 2, showing the difference in beam sizes due to the use of the same reflector and subreflector apertures at the different wavelengths. Also, it is worth noting the preferred location of sidelobes in the higher elevation portion of the antenna pattern to minimize returns from ground clutter. This is a result of the dual-offset Gregorian reflector geometry of the CSU–CHILL radar antenna. Traditional center-fed reflector antennas [such as those used in the National Weather Service’s network of operational Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) S-band radars, also known as the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD)] have no preferred sidelobe location and therefore cannot mitigate returns of ground clutter in that manner.

Fig. 1.

CSU–CHILL National Weather Radar Facility located near Greeley.

Fig. 1.

CSU–CHILL National Weather Radar Facility located near Greeley.

Fig. 2.

Illustration of CSU–CHILL radar coaxial antenna beams. The S-band antenna beam has a gain of 43 dB and a beamwidth of 1.0°, whereas the X-band antenna beam has a gain of 53 dB and a beamwidth of 0.3°.

Fig. 2.

Illustration of CSU–CHILL radar coaxial antenna beams. The S-band antenna beam has a gain of 43 dB and a beamwidth of 1.0°, whereas the X-band antenna beam has a gain of 53 dB and a beamwidth of 0.3°.

The X-band portion of the radar hardware is mounted directly on the antenna structure (see Fig. 3) to minimize waveguide lengths and to avoid the use of a waveguide rotary joint. The transmitter, duplexer, and receiver subsystems share a single enclosure (transceiver enclosure). A second enclosure houses the data acquisition and timing generation subsystems. The radar control and data streams share a single Ethernet interface that is brought to the signal processor system through a gigabit Ethernet-capable slip-ring assembly. The corresponding S-band portion of the radar hardware is located in a trailer adjacent to the radome.

Fig. 3.

CSU–CHILL radar X-band channel components: (a) the transceiver enclosure, (b) the data acquisition enclosure, and (c) the dual-frequency, dual-polarization feed.

Fig. 3.

CSU–CHILL radar X-band channel components: (a) the transceiver enclosure, (b) the data acquisition enclosure, and (c) the dual-frequency, dual-polarization feed.

The user trailer houses the X-band and S-band signal processor computers. The X-band signal processor gathers the digitized complex voltage radar data stream from the data acquisition system and the position data stream from the motion control system and computes the Doppler spectrum moments according to the system configuration. The real-time output of the signal processor is then passed to the data archive and display servers, which are common to both the S-band and X-band systems. This allows leveraging the same tools for display and analysis of both X- and S-band data streams. Internet access to the signal processor computers allows remote control and operation of the radar through graphical user interfaces and/or command line programs, enabling overnight and unattended system operation. Figure 4 illustrates the architecture of the CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength radar.

Fig. 4.

CSU–CHILL dual-frequency radar architecture.

Fig. 4.

CSU–CHILL dual-frequency radar architecture.

Both the S-band and X-band portions of the radar hardware contain provisions to maintain accurate system calibration. The S-band receiver is calibrated using an automated signal source injected at the calibration plane, whereas the S-band transmitted power is measured at the same calibration plane using a power meter. The power meter is also used to measure the signal source output power and to remove any bias in the transmitter–receiver calibration. The X-band receiver is calibrated using an onboard signal source, and a sample of the transmitted pulse is passed through the calibrated receiver to track the transmitted power on a pulse-to-pulse basis. Additionally, sphere calibrations using foil-covered spheres suspended from free-flying balloons are performed routinely to check the overall system calibration.

The main characteristics of the CSU–CHILL radar both for the X-band component and the S-band component are listed in Table 1.

Table 1.

CSU–CHILL dual-frequency radar system main specifications.

CSU–CHILL dual-frequency radar system main specifications.
CSU–CHILL dual-frequency radar system main specifications.

DATA EXAMPLES.

This section presents a few data cases illustrating the CSU–CHILL radar current capabilities. These selected data cases include convective summer storms, winter storms, and nonprecipitiating echoes. A larger selection of data cases can be found on the CSU–CHILL webpage (www.chill.colostate.edu) under the “Articles” tab.

Dual-frequency data for convective storms.

A look at attenuation

During June 2013 the CSU–CHILL radar operated in simultaneous X-band and S-band dual-frequency mode, collecting data on a number of convective storms during the CHILL Microphysical Investigation of Electrification (CHILL-MIE) project. Figures 57 show simultaneous data at X and S band for reflectivity (Z), copolar cross-correlation coefficient (ρhv), and differential propagation phase (ϕdp) obtained in an RHI scan through a convective storm on 29 June. Looking at the Z images, one can see that qualitatively there is very good agreement on the storm features and reflectivity levels at the higher elevation portion of the scan (above 10° elevation angle; Fig. 5). Below that, the X- and S-band measurements differ due to the presence of signal attenuation at X band beyond the higher reflectivity area in the 20-km range. The ρhv images [not corrected for the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)] reveal that the area of higher Z is collocated with a local dip in the ρhv values (around 20 km in range, extending from 0 to 2 km in height) possibly due to some combination of depolarizing and Mie scattering effects of what could be melting graupel or hail mixed with rain. (Fig. 6; Bringi et al. 1986a). Another feature that is readily apparent is the generally slightly reduced correlation values at X band (mostly in the 0.98–0.99 range) when compared to S band (mostly in the 0.99–1.00 range) when operating in dual-frequency mode, probably due to the lower quality of beam matching at the two polarizations at X band. This is believed to be a side effect of the dual-polarization, dual-frequency horn illuminating the antenna system, as other X-band datasets collected with the single-frequency X-band horn (as the one shown in Fig. 16) do behave as expected. The ϕdp images show the expected increase after the high Z areas with overall higher-phase excursions at X band (Fig. 7). The higher sensitivity of ϕdp at X band makes some features, such as the potential vertical alignment of particles due to electrification (roughly at 30-km range and 10-km height), easier to observe. One can also see how in the area around 20 km in range where the Z maximum is located, ϕdp at X band goes through a local maximum possibly due to backscatter differential phase owing to scattering off melting ice particles and/or large raindrops (Trömel et al. 2013).

Fig. 5.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Z comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) uncorrected X band and (b) S band. Note the generally good agreement on the storm features and Z levels at the higher elevation angles, and how they start to differ at lower angles due to the presence of attenuation from 20 km onward.

Fig. 5.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Z comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) uncorrected X band and (b) S band. Note the generally good agreement on the storm features and Z levels at the higher elevation angles, and how they start to differ at lower angles due to the presence of attenuation from 20 km onward.

Fig. 6.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength ρhv (not corrected for SNR) comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) X band and (b) S band. Note that the area of higher Z in the previous figure is collocated with a local dip in the ρhv values at both frequencies (around 20 km in range, extending from 0 to 2 km in height). This could be due to some combination of depolarizing and Mie scattering effects of what could be melting graupel or hail mixed with rain.

Fig. 6.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength ρhv (not corrected for SNR) comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) X band and (b) S band. Note that the area of higher Z in the previous figure is collocated with a local dip in the ρhv values at both frequencies (around 20 km in range, extending from 0 to 2 km in height). This could be due to some combination of depolarizing and Mie scattering effects of what could be melting graupel or hail mixed with rain.

Fig. 7.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength ϕdp comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) X band and (b) S band. Note the expected increase after the high Z areas, with generally higher phase excursions at X band. Also, the higher sensitivity at X band makes some features easier to distinguish, such as potential vertical alignment of particles due to electrification (green streak extending through 30 km in range and 10 km in height), and the X-band local maximum at 20 km is possibly due to differential phase shift upon backscattering.

Fig. 7.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength ϕdp comparison on 29 Jun 2013: (a) X band and (b) S band. Note the expected increase after the high Z areas, with generally higher phase excursions at X band. Also, the higher sensitivity at X band makes some features easier to distinguish, such as potential vertical alignment of particles due to electrification (green streak extending through 30 km in range and 10 km in height), and the X-band local maximum at 20 km is possibly due to differential phase shift upon backscattering.

The availability of simultaneous reflectivity measurements at X and S bands offers the possibility of using the unattenuated S-band measurement as a constraint for the attenuation correction algorithm applied to the X-band data. To do so successfully, one must be certain that no residual bias exists between the measured X- and S-band reflectivities (i.e., the measured data are properly calibrated). To assess that potential bias as shown in Fig. 8, the data from the top portion of the previously shown Z scan are selected (over 10° in elevation in Fig. 5), and a two-dimensional histogram of Z values at X and S band between 10 and 35 dBZ is created. The data points in the histogram are probably mostly ice particles, although supercooled liquid water cannot be ruled out. All histogram data points below a threshold (at least four occurrences for this particular dataset) are eliminated, so that rare occurrences (points affected by attenuation, dissimilar scattering mechanisms, etc.) do not bias the sample. After that, the mean value of each one-dimensional histogram of X-band reflectivity values per S-band reflectivity bin is obtained (shown as plus sign points in Fig. 8), and a regression line is fit through the resulting mean values. The obtained regression line shows that the two Z datasets are well correlated (with slope m = 1.0006) and that there is negligible bias (with offset n = −0.0040). Additionally, the standard deviation is calculated and found to be slightly over 2 dB.

Fig. 8.

Residual bias and correlation of intrinsic reflectivity values (not corrected for attenuation) at X and S bands. The data employed are obtained from the top portion (over 10° in elevation) of the previously shown reflectivity scan (Fig. 5), and it may contain a mix of ice and water particles. Color points correspond to thresholded 2D Z histogram (see color scale indicating number of occurrences); mean value of each 1D histogram of X-band reflectivity values per S-band reflectivity bin is shown as a plus sign point; and dotted line is the resulting fit to the mean values with slope m, offset n, and standard deviation stdv. The fit shows that the two datasets are well correlated and unbiased, suitable for further joint processing such as attenuation correction.

Fig. 8.

Residual bias and correlation of intrinsic reflectivity values (not corrected for attenuation) at X and S bands. The data employed are obtained from the top portion (over 10° in elevation) of the previously shown reflectivity scan (Fig. 5), and it may contain a mix of ice and water particles. Color points correspond to thresholded 2D Z histogram (see color scale indicating number of occurrences); mean value of each 1D histogram of X-band reflectivity values per S-band reflectivity bin is shown as a plus sign point; and dotted line is the resulting fit to the mean values with slope m, offset n, and standard deviation stdv. The fit shows that the two datasets are well correlated and unbiased, suitable for further joint processing such as attenuation correction.

Once established that the X and S band datasets are well correlated and unbiased, attenuation correction can be attempted. As previously mentioned, the S-band measurement can be used as a constraint for the attenuation correction algorithm applied to the X-band data. This is expressed in mathematical form in Eq. (1) below, where ZSH(r) is horizontal polarization reflectivity at S band, ZXH(r) is horizontal polarization reflectivity at X band, A(r, α) is specific attenuation as defined in Eq. (7.143) in Bringi and Chandrasekar (2001), r is range, and α is the total attenuation (dB) at the maximum range considered:

 
formula

Equation (1) is a nonlinear least squares problem that can be solved for α using an algorithm such as Levenberg–Marquardt (Levenberg 1944; Marquardt 1963). The result of applying this attenuation correction procedure to the X-band data can be seen in Fig. 9. Figure 9a shows the normalized histogram of the measured Z at S band overlaid onto the normalized histogram of the measured Z at X band, as a way to illustrate the effect of the correction algorithm. In Fig. 9a it can be seen how the number of occurrences for the higher reflectivity values at X band is underestimated, while the number of occurrences for the lower values is overestimated when compared to S band. This is the effect of signal attenuation at X band, shifting points from their higher intrinsic reflectivity values to lower attenuated values. Figure 9b shows the same normalized histogram comparison after correcting for attenuation in the X-band Z, showing excellent agreement between the two datasets.

Fig. 9.

S- and X-band Z normalized histogram comparison (a) before and (b) after attenuation correction at X band, using the datasets shown in Fig. 5. One can see how the attenuation correction process shifts X-band-attenuated lower reflectivity points to their estimated higher reflectivity values. Dashed vertical lines indicate the mean value for each histogram, giving a quantitative indication of the improved agreement between datasets after attenuation correction.

Fig. 9.

S- and X-band Z normalized histogram comparison (a) before and (b) after attenuation correction at X band, using the datasets shown in Fig. 5. One can see how the attenuation correction process shifts X-band-attenuated lower reflectivity points to their estimated higher reflectivity values. Dashed vertical lines indicate the mean value for each histogram, giving a quantitative indication of the improved agreement between datasets after attenuation correction.

A more detailed ray comparison between X- and S-band measurements is shown in Fig. 10. A data ray at 1.95° elevation angle is selected, which goes through the higher reflectivity portion of the storm shown in Fig. 5. Figure 5a shows the measured Z at X and S bands, together with the attenuation-corrected Z at X band. The attenuation-corrected Z at X band shows almost 10 dB of total attenuation. Finally, Fig. 5b shows ϕdp for X and S band, both as measured and after fitting a spline as described in Wang and Chandrasekar (2009). The S-band data have the expected smooth monotonic upward trend, whereas the X-band data exhibit a clear local maximum around the 20-km range possibly due to differential phase shift upon backscattering. The backscatter differential phase is generally indicative of Mie scattering effects, as otherwise suggested by the collocated appearance of reflectivity values in excess of 50 dBZ and a local drop of the copolar cross-correlation coefficient to values around 0.9, which could be associated with the presence of large scatterers such as wet graupel or hail. The total phase excursion at X band is roughly 3 times the phase excursion measured at S band as expected for Rayleigh scatterers.

Fig. 10.

S- and X-band ray comparison at 1.95° elevation angle, taken from the storm shown in the previous figures: (a) Z, showing around 10 dB of PIA and (b) ϕdp, where dashed lines show the raw measurement and solid lines show a fitted smoothing spline. To rule out any nonuniform beamfilling effect, the X-band data also show the adjacent rays at 1.95° ± 0.3°, which closely track each other and the analyzed ray. The standard deviation of the profiles is found to be approximately 2.5° for X band and 2.0° for S band. The S-band data have the expected smooth monotonic upward trend, whereas the X-band data exhibit a clear local maximum around the 20-km range, possibly due to differential phase shift upon backscattering.

Fig. 10.

S- and X-band ray comparison at 1.95° elevation angle, taken from the storm shown in the previous figures: (a) Z, showing around 10 dB of PIA and (b) ϕdp, where dashed lines show the raw measurement and solid lines show a fitted smoothing spline. To rule out any nonuniform beamfilling effect, the X-band data also show the adjacent rays at 1.95° ± 0.3°, which closely track each other and the analyzed ray. The standard deviation of the profiles is found to be approximately 2.5° for X band and 2.0° for S band. The S-band data have the expected smooth monotonic upward trend, whereas the X-band data exhibit a clear local maximum around the 20-km range, possibly due to differential phase shift upon backscattering.

A look at dual-wavelength ratio

The availability of simultaneous reflectivity and polarimetric measurements at X and S bands allows analyzing DWR together with its associated polarimetric signatures. Figure 11a shows a low-elevation angle (0.47°) plan position indicator (PPI) of S-band reflectivity obtained on 26 July 2013 and the cell of interest being centered at (X = 10, Y = 60 km) from the radar. The dashed line represents the radial along which RHI data are shown. The cell is intense with ZS reaching a maximum >65 dBZ. Figure 11b shows the RHI of ZS with 60 dBZ extending to around 8 km AGL. Figure 11c shows the DWR (dB) RHI data. Note the strong X-band attenuation [path-integrated attenuation (PIA)] in excess of 50 dB (along a radial that includes the open circle mark, elevation angle of 0.47°). Aloft the PIA is much lower around 15 dB (e.g., along a radial that includes the open circle mark, elevation angle of 5.3°). Figure 12 shows the range profile at an elevation angle of 0.47° of ZS and ZX (Fig. 12a) and DWR and ϕXdp (differential propagation phase at X band; Fig. 12b). The X-band signal is strongly attenuating with ϕXdp increasing from −120° (at range 53 km) to −60° (at range 62 km), or an increase of 60° over the 9-km path (over a rain path, the PIA and measured ϕXdp excursion are proportional, and the latter can be taken as a proxy for attenuation). The X-band PIA, if the path were only composed of rain, can be estimated from PIA = 0.3 × 60 or 18 dB (where the coefficient of 0.3 dB degree−1 is reasonable at X band; e.g., Park et al. 2005). However, the DWR data show an increase from 5 dB at 53 km to 45 dB at 62 km, corresponding to a PIA of 40 dB; so, it can be inferred that the excess PIA of 22 dB (40–18 dB) is due to wet hail along the path (i.e., the path is composed of heavy rain mixed with wet hail). As there is no obvious Mie hail signal in the DWR profile (i.e., there is no noticeable local departure from the general DWR trend), the wet hail diameters are estimated to be <1 cm. Figure 12 shows similar range profiles at an elevation angle of 5.3° of ZS and ZX (Fig. 12a) and DWR and X-band copolar correlation coefficient ρhv (Fig. 12b). There are several points that can be made: 1) the PIA is now reduced to 15 dB; 2) the monotonic increase in DWR with range is now “perturbed” by the Mie hail signal, whose range extent is indicated by the two-sided arrow marked with hail signal (HS) and whose values reach 10–12 dB, indicative of hail diameters of around 2 cm (Ulbrich and Atlas 1982); and 3) a significant decrease in X-band ρhv to 0.8 within the central portion of the HS, which is marked by the two-sided arrow in red. The latter reduction in ρhv is likely caused by some combination variance in hail shapes and differential backscatter phase (which could be due to wet hail) (e.g., Snyder et al. 2013).

Fig. 11.

Case from 26 Jul 2013. (a) PPI of ZS at elevation angle of 0.47°. Dashed line marks the azimuthal angle along which RHI data are shown in (b) and (c). (b) RHI of ZS along azimuthal angle of 11° [see dashed line in (a)]. (c) As in (b), but DWR is shown, together with contours of X-band reflectivity starting at 20 dBZ and incrementing by 20 dB. Circle markers are points of interest discussed in the text. Note that in (c) and Fig. 12 that the X-band data have been interpolated to the S-band range–elevation grid.

Fig. 11.

Case from 26 Jul 2013. (a) PPI of ZS at elevation angle of 0.47°. Dashed line marks the azimuthal angle along which RHI data are shown in (b) and (c). (b) RHI of ZS along azimuthal angle of 11° [see dashed line in (a)]. (c) As in (b), but DWR is shown, together with contours of X-band reflectivity starting at 20 dBZ and incrementing by 20 dB. Circle markers are points of interest discussed in the text. Note that in (c) and Fig. 12 that the X-band data have been interpolated to the S-band range–elevation grid.

Fig. 12.

(top) Range profile at elevation angle of 0.47° of (a) ZS (solid red line) and ZX (dashed black line) and (b) DWR (solid blue line) and X band ϕdp (dashed green line). (bottom) As in (top), but (c) ZS (solid red line) and ZX (dashed black line) and (d) DWR (solid blue line) and X-band ρhv (solid blue line). The double-ended horizontal red arrow marks the area of low ρhv collocated with the HS range indicated by the double-ended horizontal black arrow.

Fig. 12.

(top) Range profile at elevation angle of 0.47° of (a) ZS (solid red line) and ZX (dashed black line) and (b) DWR (solid blue line) and X band ϕdp (dashed green line). (bottom) As in (top), but (c) ZS (solid red line) and ZX (dashed black line) and (d) DWR (solid blue line) and X-band ρhv (solid blue line). The double-ended horizontal red arrow marks the area of low ρhv collocated with the HS range indicated by the double-ended horizontal black arrow.

Dual-frequency scans for a dry cold front.

During the midday hours of 15 August 2012, a cold front that produced no precipitation and minimal cloud development passed the CSU–CHILL radar site while moving toward the southwest. As the front approached, the CSU–CHILL radar was operated in dual-frequency mode. To provide high temporal resolution, the antenna executed only a single 360° PPI scan at an elevation of 1° followed by two RHI sweeps aimed at the approaching front. This scan pattern gave a cycle time of 140 s to allow fine sampling of the frontal passage.

Figures 13 and 14 show a snapshot of Z and Zdr at X and S bands. Convergence along the leading edge of the dry cold front enhanced the concentration of insects and debris raised from the surface, contributing to a thin band of maximized Z. To the rear of the front, the spatial reflectivity patterns showed indications of both open cellular and horizontal roll patterns as the thermal stability and wind shear structure changed in the postfrontal airmass. The narrow (0.3°) X-band antenna pattern and small (90 m) range depth in the X-band data improved the resolution of these echo features. The echo patterns at S band are coarser owing to the 1° beamwidth and the 150-m range gate depth. The S-band Z values are appreciably stronger than those at X band due to the larger Bragg scattering contribution at S band (Knight and Miller 1993) and possibly different scattering regimes at S band (Rayleigh) and X band (Mie) in insects (which would also contribute to larger S-band Zdr values).

Fig. 13.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Z data collected during a frontal passage on 15 Aug 2012: (a) X band and (b) S band.

Fig. 13.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Z data collected during a frontal passage on 15 Aug 2012: (a) X band and (b) S band.

Fig. 14.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Zdr data collected during a frontal passage on 15 Aug 2012: (a) X band and (b) S band.

Fig. 14.

CSU–CHILL dual-wavelength Zdr data collected during a frontal passage on 15 Aug 2012: (a) X band and (b) S band.

X-band data collected in a winter storm.

From December 2012 to April 2013, the CSU–CHILL radar operated at X band only. The increased resolution and sensitivity of the higher frequency, coupled with the potentially less severe attenuation in winter precipitation make X band well suited for these types of observations. Operating with a single-frequency feed (X band only in this case) allows for obtaining higher polarization purity than when employing the dual-frequency feed. Figures 1517 show data obtained on an RHI scan through a snowband on 15 April 2013 during the Front Range Orographic Storms (FROST) experiment (Kumjian et al. 2014). Figure 15a shows the Z structure of the snowband. A greater than 20-dBZ fall streak is readily apparent starting around 4 km in height at 45 km in range, falling toward the radar and reaching the ground at an approximate range of 20 km. Term Zdr (Fig. 15b) shows near-zero values in the area corresponding to the higher Z values, indicative of snow aggregates. In the areas corresponding to lower Z, Zdr has positive values in the 0.5–1.5-dB range, possibly to due to more pristine crystals. It is worth noting the region around 4 km in height at 35 km in range where Zdr presents slightly higher values (over 1.5 dB). Figure 16 shows the corresponding ϕdp and specific propagation phase (Kdp) data (Figs. 16a,b, respectively). The higher sensitivity at X band allows for more clearly distinguishing the upward trend of the ϕdp phase in a relatively weak echo environment (maximum Z values are below 30 dBZ). Term Kdp reveals an area of higher values that is located just below the area of higher values of Zdr, suggesting the formation of more pristine ice crystals above the area of higher Z values. This could be an indication of an ice crystal growth mechanism that is followed by the aggregation and descent of the heavier snowflakes (Kennedy and Rutledge 2011; Andrić et al. 2013). Figure 17a shows the corresponding Doppler velocity (V) field. The wind shear structure (toward the radar at heights roughly below 2.5 km, away in the layer above that up to 4 km) is consistent with the snowfall streak trajectory. Also, convergence supportive of an updraft is present in the lower portion of the precipitation-generating cell at an approximate range of 47 km and a height of 2.3 km AGL. Figure 16b shows the ρhv data. It is readily apparent that the achieved values in the higher signal-to-noise ratio areas for X band only (Fig. 16b) are above those achieved in the previously presented simultaneous X- and S-band dataset (Fig. 6a), as the limiting factor is the antenna feed performance.

Fig. 15.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) reflectivity showing a higher intensity (above 20 dBZ) fall streak and (b) Zdr, showing near-zero values in the area corresponding with the higher Z values as snow aggregates.

Fig. 15.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) reflectivity showing a higher intensity (above 20 dBZ) fall streak and (b) Zdr, showing near-zero values in the area corresponding with the higher Z values as snow aggregates.

Fig. 16.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) ϕdp, showing a clear upward trend in a relatively weak echo environment (maximum Z values are below 30 dBZ), and (b) Kdp, revealing an area of higher values that is located above the higher values of Zdr, suggesting the formation of more pristine ice crystals above the area of higher Z values.

Fig. 16.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) ϕdp, showing a clear upward trend in a relatively weak echo environment (maximum Z values are below 30 dBZ), and (b) Kdp, revealing an area of higher values that is located above the higher values of Zdr, suggesting the formation of more pristine ice crystals above the area of higher Z values.

Fig. 17.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) V and (b) ρhv (not corrected for SNR).

Fig. 17.

CSU–CHILL X-band data collected through snowband on 15 Apr 2013: (a) V and (b) ρhv (not corrected for SNR).

X-band data collected in a tornadic storm.

In the early afternoon of 18 June 2013, a tornado developed over the Denver International Airport while CSU–CHILL was in operation during the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) 2013 project. Figure 18 shows a general view of the storm and a detailed view around the tornado signature of Z and V. The selected X-band scan was taken at an elevation of 0.5° and shows a very well-defined hook-echo signature with an approximate diameter less than 2 km at a range near 70 km directly south of the radar, made possible owing to the very small antenna beamwidth at X band (0.3°). The V field shows a tight azimuthal shear couplet in the Doppler velocity collocated with the hook echo. Because the CSU–CHILL X-band radar channel operates with a dual-PRF scheme similar to that described in Bharadwaj et al. (2010), it allows for resolving Doppler velocities close to ±24 m s−1 while maintaining an unambiguous range of 100 km.

Fig. 18.

General view and detailed view of a tornadic thunderstorm over Denver International Airport on 18 Jun 2013 as measured by the CSU–CHILL radar X-band component. (a) General Z view with the storm located around 70 km directly south of the radar. (b) Detailed Z view of the storm’s associated hook echo. (c) Corresponding V field and collocated velocity couplet. Very small antenna beamwidth at X band (0.3°) allows for resolving with great detail a well-defined hook-echo signature of small diameter (less than 2 km) and associated velocity couplet at a far range (near 70 km). A small “×” marks the location of the center of the velocity couplet and hook-echo signatures.

Fig. 18.

General view and detailed view of a tornadic thunderstorm over Denver International Airport on 18 Jun 2013 as measured by the CSU–CHILL radar X-band component. (a) General Z view with the storm located around 70 km directly south of the radar. (b) Detailed Z view of the storm’s associated hook echo. (c) Corresponding V field and collocated velocity couplet. Very small antenna beamwidth at X band (0.3°) allows for resolving with great detail a well-defined hook-echo signature of small diameter (less than 2 km) and associated velocity couplet at a far range (near 70 km). A small “×” marks the location of the center of the velocity couplet and hook-echo signatures.

CONCLUSIONS.

This study describes the successful transformation of the CSU–CHILL National Radar Facility to a diverse radar system capable of operating at S band only, X band only, and simultaneous S and X bands, all providing a full suite of Doppler and polarimetric measurements. The X-band component features a high-gain, 0.3° beamwidth antenna providing unprecedented resolution at that wavelength. The capability of changing the operational mode among these three configurations (in roughly 24 h) provides optimization for the user-specified application. The S-band-only mode provides maximum sensitivity at S band with superb cross-polarization isolation and polarimetric data quality. The X-band-only mode provides superior data quality at X band and maximum sensitivity. The dual-frequency mode, of course, provides simultaneous S- and X-band polarimetric measurements with slightly reduced sensitivity at S band, with high-quality polarimetric data at both frequencies. The high resolution at X band allows finescale features, not typically revealed by the S-band component data, to be resolved.

The CSU–CHILL radar is now operating as part of the Front Range Observational Network Testbed (FRONT) formed by the CSU–CHILL radar and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) S- and Ka-band Polarimetric (SPolKa) radar. The latter facility is now operational approximately 40 km south of CSU–CHILL, forming a dual-Doppler, multifrequency polarmetric network. Requests for FRONT as a community observational facility are now being accepted as described online (www.eol.ucar.edu/observing_facilities/front). FRONT is also located with coverage of the northeast Colorado Lightning Mapping Array (LMA), providing information on lightning flash rates and charge structures (http://lightning.nmt.edu/colma/). CSU–CHILL, FRONT, and the LMA network form a powerful means to study cloud dynamics, microphysics, and cloud electrification.

The CSU–CHILL radar is available for users via several request mechanisms. The request process can be found on the facility’s web page (www.chill.colostate.edu/w/Facilities#Requesting_Use_of_the_Facility). Users may also access a large variety of archived datasets via the facility’s Virtual CHILL (VCHILL) system, also available on the CSU–CHILL web page.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement AGS 1138116 and Colorado State University. L. Tolstoy, G. J. Huang, and M. Galvez assisted with data processing to create Figs. 11 and 12.

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