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James Wilson

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James W. Wilson

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Quantitative data collected with the WSR-57 radar at Atlantic City from five rainstorms and two snow-storms are compared with precipitation data from 60 recording rain gages within 100 mi of the radar. Hourly rainfall amounts of from 0.01–0.02 inches are detected by the radar in at least 95 per cent of the cases at all radar ranges out to 70 mi. Hourly amounts of from 0.04–0.05 inches are detected in at least 95 per cent of the cases at all ranges out to 100 mi.

The relationship between radar echo intensity and rainfall rate varies from storm to storm. Although the radar appears to have excellent potential for determination of area-average rainfall, reflectivity measurements provide only coarse estimates of point rainfall intensity. The radar estimates of hourly rainfall averages, over a 750 sq mi area within 60 mi of the radar, are within the confidence limits of the average of 10 gage measurements, when a best-fitting radar-rainfall relationship is used for each storm. Use of one grand average relationship for all storms provides estimates of the average areal rainfall whose accuracy corresponds to those of a single rain gage located near the area center.

An analysis of errors made in transferring PPI photographs to digitized arrays and in measuring the echo intensity in steps of 6 db indicates that a reduction in the size of these errors would not substantially improve the accuracy of the radar measurements.

An important unresolved problem concerns the development of techniques for quick determination, under field conditions, of the most accurate reflectivity-rainfall relationship for a particular storm.

A chart based on the average relationship developed in this study is presented for converting echo intensities measured with a WSR-57 to rainfall intensities.

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James W. Wilson

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Radar and raingage data collected during the International Field Year for the Great Lakes were used to determine the effect of Lake Ontario on precipitation patterns. Objective analysis techniques were used to combine the radar and gage data.

During the warm season the relatively cold lake frequently suppressed afternoon shower activity, particularly when the showers were not associated with large-scale well-organized weather systems. When the showers were scattered, the land portion of the watershed received 402% more rain than the lake compared to 14% more for widespread rain. During the cold season, the lake frequently stimulated precipitation when the 850 mb temperature was more than 7°C colder than the lake.

While the lake influenced the precipitation patterns for about half the days, the total effect on precipitation amounts was small. The lake-effect days were generally those with small-area average amounts. The total warm season rainfall for land areas within 30 km of the lake was 10% more than the lake. For the cold season, the land received 2% less than the lake. There was an orographic component to the precipitation over the far eastern end of the lake and land. Removal of the orographic component tends to reduce the warm season land-to-lake difference while increasing the cold season difference.

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James W. Wilson

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Five tornadoes occurred within a 40 min period on 18 May 1984 in eastern Colorado. The evolution of these tornadoes was documented by a single Doppler radar, research aircraft, mesonetwork and chase team. Three of these tornadoes were narrow (≈300 m), rotating dust columns extending from the surface to cloud base more than 5 km from the nearest precipitation. The Doppler-observed parent circulations were <2 km deep and <1 km in diameter. Tornadoes of this type do relatively minor damage and are frequently called gust front tornadoes or gustnadoes. It is believed this is the first Doppler radar documentation of this tornado type. In an operational environment, even at close radar range, it would be difficult to detect the parent circulation associated with these tornadoes. However, by closely monitoring wind shift boundaries and associated localized strong shear regions, preferred tornado areas can be identified.

The other two tornadoes were associated with condensation funnels and occurred near precipitation. The Doppler parent circulations were deeper and wider than the first three tornadoes but were relatively small compared to many of those reported in the literature. All five of these tornadoes occurred along two wind shift lines near the point where the lines intersected. These lines were of synoptic scale origin—a cold front and a trough line.

The low-level echo structure and wind field associated with the parent storm of the two larger tornadoes closely resemble those described in the literature for supercell storms. While the environmental vertical wind shear was less than normally expected for supercell storms, it is believed that the preexisting boundaries created the necessary vorticity and vorticity production mechanisms for tornadogenesis.

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James W. Wilson

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Oklahoma thunderstorm data were used to determine how the estimation of area rainfall by radar can be improved by using one or several raingages. The radar data were collected between 1964 and 1968 with the WSR-57 radar at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Okla. The rainfall data were obtained from the Agriculture Research Service's dense network of raingages near Chickasha, Okla.

The improvement of area rainfall measurements by combining radar measurements with discrete raingage measurements is demonstrated. It is shown, for example, that the rms error of radar measurements of storm rainfall amount, for a 1000 mi2 area, was reduced by 39% after the radar was calibrated with only one rain-gage. At least four uniformly spaced gages are required to measure storm rainfall amounts for the same area as accurately as the radar calibrated with only one gage. The present network of gages over the United States is approximately one gage per 1000 mi2.

The ability of radar to measure rainfall variability accurately has been demonstrated; therefore, it is possible to assess objectively whether a particular gage measurement will be useful for adjusting radar rainfall measurements.

With the recent development of an effective system for automatically digitizing and communicating radar data in a form suitable for computer processing, these findings make possible the development of an operational system for measuring rainfall with an accuracy and timeliness never before achieved.

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Cynthia Mueller and James W. Wilson

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Edwin Kessler and James W. Wilson

Appropriate uses of radar in a national weather system within the next 10–15 years are considered. A radar network sensing precipitation reflectivity and utilizing many automatic techniques for acquiring and processing data, preparing forecasts, and communicating precipitation characteristics represents a worthwhile goal practically achievable by 1980. A suitable system would combine the information provided by radar and other sensors, would provide users with the specialized information they require at reasonable cost, and would promote effective interpersonal and man-machine relationships. It would also readily admit new instruments and techniques as their worth is demonstrated.

The meteorological applications of reflectivity data are listed and radar data flow rates corresponding to low, moderate, and high load configurations in the envisioned system are presented. Increasing flow rates correspond to increasing proportions of automatic as opposed to manual operations in the system.

The system outlined represents a preliminary goal which should be modified as new knowledge is acquired from field tests within the operational radar system and from other research.

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James W. Wilson and Darelyn Reum

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The characteristics and causes of a radar artifact called a flare echo are described. The spike or flare-shaped echo typically has reflectivities <20 dBZ, and approaching Doppler velocities. It extends radially 10–20 km downrange of some intense radar storm echoes. Zrnić recently proposed a three-body scattering scenario to explain its occurrence, which consists of scattering by the hydrometeors to the ground, backscattering by the ground to the hydrometeors and scattering by the hydrometeors to the radar. In addition he developed relationships that predict the behavior of the flare reflectivities and velocities.

The data presented here support Zrnić's three-body scattering explanation and relationship, indicating that the flare echo power is dependent on the inverse cube of the distance from the large hydrometeors to the ground. The flue Doppler velocities depend on the radial velocity and fall speed of the hydrometeors responsible for producing the flare. However, it was found that Zrnić's theory did not fully address anomalies observed for scattering paths directly below the large hydrometeors and the contribution of their radial velocities to the flare velocities.

In this paper flare echo data from Colorado and Alabama are compared. The Colorado flares are typically more intense, extensive, and longer lasting and are highly likely to be associated with large (≥ 2 cm) hail and can thus be used as a warning signature. However, this use is not transferrable to Alabama storms where surface hail rarely occurs with flare echoes. In fact, there is evidence that large raindrops may sometimes cause the flare in Alabama.

The flare echo may cause difficulties for unaware researchers using multiple Doppler techniques to synthesize wind fields. It is also a potential problem for forecasters interpreting the data and computer algorithms searching for velocity features such as downbursts and gust fronts. The flare velocities may prove useful for nowcasting microbursts.

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Juanzhen Sun and James W. Wilson

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Assimilation of radar data is one of the key scientific challenges for numerical weather prediction of convective systems. Considerable progress has been made in recent years including retrieval of boundary layer winds from single-Doppler observations, assimilation of radar observations into convective-scale numerical models for explicit thunderstorm prediction, and assimilation of radar estimates of rainfall and wind into mesoscale models. However, the assimilation of radar data for weather prediction remains an important scientific area that demands further investigation. In this paper, the techniques that are currently being used and have demonstrated potential in radar data assimilation are presented. The progress on the research and applications is described and the future directions and challenges are outlined.

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James Wilson, Dan Megenhardt, and James Pinto

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This paper examines nowcasts of precipitation from the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRRv2) model from the summer of 2017 along the Colorado Front Range. It was found that model nowcasts (2 h or less) of precipitation amount were less skillful than extrapolation of the KFTG WSR-88-D data at a spatial scale of 120 km. It was also found that local-scale (mesoscale) influences on rainfall intensity and amount have a much greater impact on rainfall intensity than large-scale (synoptic) influences. Thus, large-scale trends are not useful for modifying extrapolation nowcasts on the local scale. Errors in the HRRR nowcasts are attributed to an inability of the model and data assimilation to resolve convergence along outflow boundaries and other terrain-influenced mesogamma-scale flows that contribute to storm formation and evolution. While the HRRRv2 1-h nowcasts were strongly correlated with observed precipitation events, the nowcast precipitation amounts were in error by more than a factor of 2 about 50% of the time, with half of the cases being overestimates and half being underestimates. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 overestimates were associated with stratiform rain events. It is speculated that this was a result of misinterpretation of the radar bright band as more intense precipitation aloft by the data assimilation scheme. A large fraction of the HRRRv2 underestimates occurred when the data assimilation and model were unable to fully resolve the low-level convergence along small-scale, narrow boundaries that led to new storm initiation and/or storm growth.

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