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Robert M. Rauber, Larry S. Olthoff, Mohan K. Ramamurthy, and Kenneth E. Kunkel

Abstract

The general applicability of an isonomogram developed by Czys and coauthors to diagnose the position of the geographic boundary between freezing precipitation (freezing rain or freezing drizzle) and ice pellets (sleet or snow grains) was tested using a 25-yr sounding database consisting of 1051 soundings, 581 where stations were reporting freezing drizzle, 391 reporting freezing rain, and 79 reporting ice pellets. Of the 1051 soundings, only 306 clearly had an environmental temperature and moisture profile corresponding to that assumed for the isonomogram. This profile consisted of a three-layer atmosphere with 1) a cold cloud layer aloft that is a source of ice particles, 2) a midlevel layer where the temperature exceeds 0°C and ice particles melt, and 3) a surface layer where T < 0°C. The remaining soundings did not conform to the profile either because 1) the freezing precipitation was associated with the warm rain process or 2) the ice pellets formed due to riming rather than melting and refreezing. For soundings conforming to the profile, the isonomogram showed little diagnostic skill. Freezing rain or freezing drizzle occurred about 50% of the time that ice pellets were expected. Ice pellets occurred in nearly a third of the cases where freezing precipitation was diagnosed. Possible reasons for the poor diagnostic skill of the method are suggested.

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