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  • Author or Editor: Sergey Y. Matrosov x
  • The Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) x
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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


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.

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