Abstract

A polarimetric radar–based method for retrieving atmospheric ice particle shapes is applied to snowfall measurements by a scanning Ka-band radar deployed at Oliktok Point, Alaska (70.495°N, 149.883°W). The mean aspect ratio, which is defined by the hydrometeor minor-to-major dimension ratio for a spheroidal particle model, is retrieved as a particle shape parameter. The radar variables used for aspect ratio profile retrievals include reflectivity, differential reflectivity, and the copolar correlation coefficient. The retrievals indicate that hydrometeors with mean aspect ratios below 0.2–0.3 are usually present in regions with air temperatures warmer than approximately from −17° to −15°C, corresponding to a regime that has been shown to be favorable for growth of pristine ice crystals of planar habits. Radar reflectivities corresponding to the lowest mean aspect ratios are generally between −10 and 10 dBZ. For colder temperatures, mean aspect ratios are typically in a range between 0.3 and 0.8. There is a tendency for hydrometeor aspect ratios to increase as particles transition from altitudes in the temperature range from −17° to −15°C toward the ground. This increase is believed to result from aggregation and riming processes that cause particles to become more spherical and is associated with areas demonstrating differential reflectivity decreases with increasing reflectivity. Aspect ratio retrievals at the lowest altitudes are consistent with in situ measurements obtained using a surface-based multiangle snowflake camera. Pronounced gradients in particle aspect ratio profiles are observed at altitudes at which there is a change in the dominant hydrometeor species, as inferred by spectral measurements from a vertically pointing Doppler radar.

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