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Daniel M. Hueholt
,
Sandra E. Yuter
, and
Matthew A. Miller

Abstract

Ice habit diagrams published prior to 2009—and many since—do not accurately describe in situ observations of ice shapes as a function of temperature and moisture. Laboratory studies and analysis of field observations by Bailey and Hallett in a series of papers in 2002, 2004, and 2009 corrected several errors from earlier studies, but their work has not been widely disseminated. We present a new, simplified diagram based on Bailey and Hallett’s work that focuses on several ice growth forms arising from the underlying surface processes by which mass is added to a crystal: tabular, columnar, branched, side branched, two types of polycrystalline forms, and a multiple growth regime at low ice supersaturations. To aid interpretation for a variety of applications, versions of the ice growth diagram are presented in terms of relative humidity with respect to water as well as the traditional formats of relative humidity with respect to ice and vapor density excess. These diagrams are intended to be understandable and useful in classroom settings at the sophomore undergraduate level and above. The myriad shapes of pristine snow crystals can be described as the result of either a single growth form or a sequence of growth forms. Overlays of data from upper-air soundings on the ice growth diagrams aid interpretation of expected physical properties and processes in conditions of ice growth.

Free access
Edwin L. Dunnavan
,
Jacob T. Carlin
,
Jiaxi Hu
,
Petar Bukovčić
,
Alexander V. Ryzhkov
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
Joseph A. Finlon
,
Sergey Y. Matrosov
, and
David J. Delene

Abstract

This study evaluates ice particle size distribution and aspect ratio φ Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) dual-polarization radar retrievals through a direct comparison with two legs of observational aircraft data obtained during a winter storm case from the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) campaign. In situ cloud probes, satellite, and MRMS observations illustrate that the often-observed K dp and Z DR enhancement regions in the dendritic growth layer can either indicate a local number concentration increase of dry ice particles or the presence of ice particles mixed with a significant number of supercooled liquid droplets. Relative to in situ measurements, MRMS retrievals on average underestimated mean volume diameters by 50% and overestimated number concentrations by over 100%. IWC retrievals using Z DR and K dp within the dendritic growth layer were minimally biased relative to in situ calculations where retrievals yielded −2% median relative error for the entire aircraft leg. Incorporating φ retrievals decreased both the magnitude and spread of polarimetric retrievals below the dendritic growth layer. While φ radar retrievals suggest that observed dendritic growth layer particles were nonspherical (0.1 ≤ φ ≤ 0.2), in situ projected aspect ratios, idealized numerical simulations, and habit classifications from cloud probe images suggest that the population mean φ was generally much higher. Coordinated aircraft radar reflectivity with in situ observations suggests that the MRMS systematically underestimated reflectivity and could not resolve local peaks in mean volume diameter sizes. These results highlight the need to consider particle assumptions and radar limitations when performing retrievals.

significance statement

Developing snow is often detectable using weather radars. Meteorologists combine these radar measurements with mathematical equations to study how snow forms in order to determine how much snow will fall. This study evaluates current methods for estimating the total number and mass, sizes, and shapes of snowflakes from radar using images of individual snowflakes taken during two aircraft legs. Radar estimates of snowflake properties were most consistent with aircraft data inside regions with prominent radar signatures. However, radar estimates of snowflake shapes were not consistent with observed shapes estimated from the snowflake images. Although additional research is needed, these results bolster understanding of snow-growth physics and uncertainties between radar measurements and snow production that can improve future snowfall forecasting.

Free access
Joseph A. Finlon
,
Lynn A. McMurdie
, and
Randy J. Chase

Abstract

Multifrequency airborne radars have become instrumental in evaluating the performance of satellite retrievals and furthering our understanding of ice microphysical properties. The dual-frequency ratio (DFR) is influenced by the size, density, and shape of ice particles, with higher values associated with the presence of larger ice particles that may have implications regarding snowfall at the surface. The Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) field campaign involves the coordination of remote sensing measurements above winter midlatitude cyclones from an ER-2 aircraft to document the fine-scale precipitation structure spanning four radar (X-, Ku-, Ka-, and W-band) frequencies and in situ microphysical measurements from a P-3 aircraft that provide additional insight into the particle size distribution (PSD) behavior and habits of the hydrometeors related to the DFR. A novel approach to identify regions of prominently higher Ku- and Ka-band DFR at the P-3 location for five coordinated flights is presented. The solid-phase mass-weighted mean diameter (Dm ) was 58% larger, the effective density (ρe ) 37% smaller, and the liquid-equivalent normalized intercept parameter (Nw ) 74% lower in regions of prominently higher DFR. Microphysical properties within a triple-frequency framework suggest signatures consistent with aggregation and riming as in previous studies. Last, a pretrained neural network radar retrieval is used to investigate the vertical structure of microphysical properties associated with the larger DFR signatures and provides the spatial context for inferring certain microphysical processes.

Significance Statement

The purpose of this study is to better understand what radar measurements from multiple frequencies can tell us about the sizes, shapes, and concentrations of ice particles within winter snowstorms, and how these observations are related to banded precipitation structures since they can have implications for snowfall at the surface. Our results show that ice particles are on average larger and less dense when the reflectivity difference between two radars operating at different wavelengths is larger and supports the process by which crystals aggregate to form larger particles. These findings aim to improve how satellites and forecasting models represent precipitation in the cloud and at the surface.

Open access
Randy J. Chase
,
Stephen W. Nesbitt
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
Norman B. Wood
, and
Gerald M. Heymsfield

Abstract

Two spaceborne radars currently in orbit enable the sampling of snowfall near the surface and throughout the atmospheric column, namely, CloudSat’s Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) and the Global Precipitation Measurement mission’s Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (GPM-DPR). In this paper, a direct comparison of the CPR’s 2C-SNOW-PROFILE (2CSP), the operational GPM-DPR algorithm (2ADPR) and a neural network (NN) retrieval applied to the GPM-DPR data is performed using coincident observations between both radars. Examination of over 3500 profiles within moderate to strong precipitation (Ka band ≥ 18 dBZ) show that the NN retrieval provides the closest retrieval of liquid equivalent precipitation rate R immediately above the melting level to the R retrieved just below the melting layer, agreeing within 5%. Meanwhile, 2CSP retrieves a maximum value of R at −15°C, decreases by 35% just above the melting layer, and is about 50% smaller than the GPM-DPR retrieved R below the melting layer. CPR-measured reflectivity shows median reduction of 2–3 dB from −15° to −2.5°C, likely the reason for the 2CSP retrieval reduction of R. Two case studies from NASA field campaigns [i.e., Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) and Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS)] provide analogs to the type of precipitating systems found in the comparison between retrieval products. For the snowfall events that GPM-DPR can observe, this work suggests that the 2CSP retrieval is likely underestimating the unattenuated reflectivity, resulting in a potential negative, or low, bias in R. Future work should investigate how frequently the underestimated reflectivity profiles occur within the CPR record and quantify its potential effects on global snowfall accumulation estimation.

Free access
George Duffy
and
Derek J. Posselt

Abstract

In this study, we investigate the tendencies of gamma parameters for particle size distributions (PSDs) containing snowflake aggregates in orographic, convective, and stratiform clouds, above snowstorms and above rainstorms, in temperatures ranging from 0° to −45°C. We find a strong relationship between μ and Λ but no dependence on temperature. Higher μ are observed during the experiments sampling winter snowstorms, and lower μ are observed during experiments sampling frozen clouds above convective and orographic storms. We find that a gamma function with a μ of −1.25 provides the best average representation of PSD shape and the most accurate representation of PSD moments related to mass and reflectivity. We also provide a lookup table of maximum particle size boundaries that can be used to parameterize incomplete gamma functions with negative μ values.

Significance Statement

In many weather models and satellite retrieval algorithms, frozen clouds and precipitation are governed by the same assumptions even though they develop through different growth processes. This paper provides recommendations for snowflake aggregate size distributions that reflect natural conditions, and these recommended assumptions are demonstrated to improve estimates of mass and radar reflectivity. We studied a variety of storms, such as thunderstorms, snow storms, and winter rainstorms, and we found that our model for snowflake aggregates was nearly identical in all observed conditions.

Free access
Lynn A. McMurdie
,
Gerald M. Heymsfield
,
John E. Yorks
,
Scott A. Braun
,
Gail Skofronick-Jackson
,
Robert M. Rauber
,
Sandra Yuter
,
Brian Colle
,
Greg M. McFarquhar
,
Michael Poellot
,
David R. Novak
,
Timothy J. Lang
,
Rachael Kroodsma
,
Matthew McLinden
,
Mariko Oue
,
Pavlos Kollias
,
Matthew R. Kumjian
,
Steven J. Greybush
,
Andrew J. Heymsfield
,
Joseph A. Finlon
,
Victoria L. McDonald
, and
Stephen Nicholls

Abstract

The Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) is a NASA-sponsored field campaign to study wintertime snowstorms focusing on East Coast cyclones. This large cooperative effort takes place during the winters of 2020–23 to study precipitation variability in winter cyclones to improve remote sensing and numerical forecasts of snowfall. Snowfall within these storms is frequently organized in banded structures on multiple scales. The causes for the occurrence and evolution of a wide spectrum of snowbands remain poorly understood. The goals of IMPACTS are to characterize the spatial and temporal scales and structures of snowbands, understand their dynamical, thermodynamical, and microphysical processes, and apply this understanding to improve remote sensing and modeling of snowfall. The first deployment took place in January–February 2020 with two aircraft that flew coordinated flight patterns and sampled a range of storms from the Midwest to the East Coast. The satellite-simulating ER-2 aircraft flew above the clouds and carried a suite of remote sensing instruments including cloud and precipitation radars, lidar, and passive microwave radiometers. The in situ P-3 aircraft flew within the clouds and sampled environmental and microphysical quantities. Ground-based radar measurements from the National Weather Service network and a suite of radars located on Long Island, New York, along with supplemental soundings and the New York State Mesonet ground network provided environmental context for the airborne observations. Future deployments will occur during the 2022 and 2023 winters. The coordination between remote sensing and in situ platforms makes this a unique publicly available dataset applicable to a wide variety of interests.

Full access
Andrew J. Heymsfield
,
Aaron Bansemer
,
Alexander Theis
, and
Carl Schmitt

Abstract

This study quantifies how far snow can fall into the melting layer (ML) before all snow has melted by examining a combination of in situ observations from aircraft measurements in Lagrangian spiral descents from above through the ML and descents and ascents into the ML, as well as an extensive database of NOAA surface observer reports during the past 50 years. The airborne data contain information on the particle phase (solid, mixed, or liquid), population size distributions and shapes, along with temperature, relative humidity, and vertical velocity. A wide range of temperatures and ambient relative humidities are used for both the airborne and ground-based data. It is shown that an ice-bulb temperature of 0°C, together with the air temperature and pressure (altitude), are good first-order predictors of the highest temperature snowflakes can survive in the melting layer before completely melting. Particle size is also important, as is whether the particles are graupel or hail. If the relative humidity is too low, the particles will sublimate completely as they fall into the melting layer. Snow as warm as +7°C is observed from aircraft measurements and surface observations. Snow pellets survive to even warmer temperatures. Relationships are developed to represent the primary findings.

Full access
Matthew L. Walker McLinden
,
Lihua Li
,
Gerald M. Heymsfield
,
Michael Coon
, and
Amber Emory

Abstract

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC’s) W-band (94 GHz) Cloud Radar System (CRS) has been comprehensively updated to modern solid-state and digital technology. This W-band (94 GHz) radar flies in nadir-pointing mode on the NASA ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, providing polarimetric reflectivity and Doppler measurements of clouds and precipitation. This paper describes the design and signal processing of the upgraded CRS. It includes details on the hardware upgrades [solid-state power amplifier (SSPA) transmitter, antenna, and digital receiver] including a new reflectarray antenna and solid-state transmitter. It also includes algorithms, including internal loop-back calibration, external calibration using a direct relationship between volume reflectivity and the range-integrated backscatter of the ocean, and a modified staggered–pulse repetition frequency (PRF) Doppler algorithm that is highly resistant to unfolding errors. Data samples obtained by upgraded CRS through recent NASA airborne science missions are provided.

Full access