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Federico Porcù, Leo Pio D’Adderio, Franco Prodi, and Clelia Caracciolo

Abstract

Coalescence and breakup of drops are recognized as the main mechanisms determining raindrop size distributions on the ground. Full knowledge of these processes is hindered by the challenging difficulties both in the laboratory and tunnel experiments and during observations in the open air.

In real rain breakup is mainly due to collision between drops of different sizes (collisional breakup) and occurs when the collisional kinetic energy (CKE) is not absorbed by the colliding drops. In this work, the authors observe and measure the dependence on altitude of the occurrence of collisional breakup in real rainfall events, and then estimate the corresponding limit terminal velocities of drops and their size when breakup significantly takes place.

Data from Pludix, an X-band microwave disdrometer, were collected at three locations at different elevations: collisional breakup position in the power spectrum of Pludix increases toward higher frequencies with increasing altitude. Terminal velocities and sizes of the drops at breakup were determined consequently, with drop sizes resulting in 4.55 ± 0.35, 4.02 ± 0.32, and 3.16 ± 0.3 mm for altitudes of 15, 950, and 3300 m MSL, respectively. The authors computed the CKE of the colliding drops at the breakup, finding an upper limiting value of about 1.22 × 10−5 J for all three altitudes. This shows that most dominant collisional breakup signature occurs at similar CKE values for all three locations, corresponding to different drop diameters at different altitudes because of the effect of air density on the drop terminal velocity.

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Leo Pio D’Adderio, Federico Porcù, and Ali Tokay

Abstract

Numerous laboratory and numerical studies have been dedicated to understanding collisional breakup as one of the most important processes in rain formation. The present study aims to identify when, in natural rain, collisional breakup is dominant and thus able to modify the shape of the raindrop size distribution (DSD), up to the equilibrium DSD. To this end, an automated objective algorithm has been developed and applied to a total of more than 6000 two-minute-averaged DSDs. Since breakup is mostly observed in heavy precipitation, the method was applied to the DSDs where rain rate was above 5 mm h−1. The selected breakup DSDs had good agreement with those predicted to be the equilibrium DSD by different theoretical models. The equilibrium DSD was found in a variable fraction of the total samples (0%–7%), confirming that the onset of equilibrium is a rare event in natural rain. The occurrence of a DSD in which breakup is dominant and modifies the DSD but the equilibrium DSD is not reached is higher (15%–47%). The gamma distribution, which has been widely used in the parameterization of observed size spectra, had a poor fitting in breakup-induced DSD, especially in the 1.0–2.6-mm-diameter interval. This can impact applications for which the parameterization of DSD is needed, such as in the retrieval of a DSD integral parameter (such as rain rate) from active remote sensor data.

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Ali Tokay, Leo Pio D’Adderio, David B. Wolff, and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

The spatial variability of parameters of the raindrop size distribution and its derivatives is investigated through a field study where collocated Particle Size and Velocity (Parsivel2) and two-dimensional video disdrometers were operated at six sites at Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, from December 2013 to March 2014. The three-parameter exponential function was employed to determine the spatial variability across the study domain where the maximum separation distance was 2.3 km. The nugget parameter of the exponential function was set to 0.99 and the correlation distance d 0 and shape parameter s 0 were retrieved by minimizing the root-mean-square error, after fitting it to the correlations of physical parameters. Fits were very good for almost all 15 physical parameters. The retrieved d 0 and s 0 were about 4.5 km and 1.1, respectively, for rain rate (RR) when all 12 disdrometers were reporting rainfall with a rain-rate threshold of 0.1 mm h−1 for 1-min averages. The d 0 decreased noticeably when one or more disdrometers were required to report rain. The d 0 was considerably different for a number of parameters (e.g., mass-weighted diameter) but was about the same for the other parameters (e.g., RR) when rainfall threshold was reset to 12 and 18 dBZ for Ka- and Ku-band reflectivity, respectively, following the expected Global Precipitation Measurement mission’s spaceborne radar minimum detectable signals. The reduction of the database through elimination of a site did not alter d 0 as long as the fit was adequate. The correlations of 5-min rain accumulations were lower when disdrometer observations were simulated for a rain gauge at different bucket sizes.

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Ali Tokay, Leo Pio D’Adderio, David B. Wolff, and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission ground validation program uses dual-polarization radar moments to estimate raindrop size distribution (DSD) parameters, the mass-weighted mean drop diameter D mass, and normalized intercept parameter N W, to validate the GPM Core Observatory–derived DSD parameters. The disdrometer-based D mass and N W are derived through empirical relationships between D mass and differential reflectivity Z DR, and between N W, reflectivity Z H, and D mass. This study employs large datasets collected from two-dimensional video disdrometers (2DVD) during six different field studies to derive the requisite empirical relationships. The uncertainty of the derived D mass(Z DR) relationship is evaluated through comparisons of 2DVD-calculated and Z DR-estimated D mass, where Z DR is calculated directly from 2DVD observations. Similarly, the uncertainty of the N W(Z H, D mass) relationship is evaluated through 2DVD-calculated and D mass and Z H-estimated N W, where D mass and Z H are directly calculated from 2DVD observations. This study also presents the sensitivity of D mass(Z DR) relationships to climate regime and to disdrometer type after developing three additional D mass(Z DR) relationships from second-generation Particle Size Velocity (PARSIVEL2) disdrometer (P2) observations collected in the Pacific Northwest, in Iowa, and at Kwajalein Atoll in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The application of P2-derived D mass(Z DR) relationship based on precipitation in the northwestern United States to P2 observations collected over the tropical ocean resulted in the highest error among comparisons of the three datasets.

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Leo Pio D’Adderio, Gianfranco Vulpiani, Federico Porcù, Ali Tokay, and Robert Meneghini

Abstract

One of the main goals of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is to retrieve parameters of the raindrop size distribution (DSD) globally. As a standard product of the Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) on board the GPM Core Observatory satellite, the mass-weighted mean diameter D m and the normalized intercept parameter N w are estimated in three dimensions at the resolution of the radar. These are two parameters of the three-parameter gamma model DSD adopted by the GPM algorithms. This study investigates the accuracy of the D m retrieval through a comparative study of C-band ground radars (GRs) and GPM products over Italy. The reliability of the ground reference is tested by using two different approaches to estimate D m. The results show good agreement between the ground-based and spaceborne-derived D m, with an absolute bias being generally lower than 0.5 mm over land in stratiform precipitation for the DPR algorithm and the combined DPR–GMI algorithm. For the DPR–GMI algorithm, the good agreement extends to convective precipitation as well. Estimates of D m from the DPR high-sensitivity (HS) Ka-band data show slightly worse results. A sensitivity study indicates that the accuracy of the D m estimation is independent of the height above surface (not shown) and the distance from the ground radar. On the other hand, a nonuniform precipitation pattern (interpreted both as high variability and as a patchy spatial distribution) within the DPR footprint is usually associated with a significant error in the DPR-derived estimate of D m.

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Ali Tokay, Leo Pio D’Adderio, Federico Porcù, David B. Wolff, and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

A network of seven two-dimensional video disdrometers (2DVD), which were operated during the Midlatitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E) in northern Oklahoma, are employed to investigate the spatial variability of raindrop size distribution (DSD) within the footprint of the dual-frequency precipitation radar (DPR) on board the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission core satellite. One-minute 2DVD DSD observations were interpolated uniformly to 13 points distributed within a nearly circular DPR footprint through an inverse distance weighting method. The presence of deep continental showers was a unique feature of the dataset resulting in a higher mean rain rate R with respect to previous studies. As a measure of spatial variability for the interpolated data, a three-parameter exponential function was applied to paired correlations of three parameters of normalized gamma DSD, R, reflectivity, and attenuation at Ka- and Ku-band frequencies of DPR (Z_Ka, Z_Ku, k_Ka, and k_Ku, respectively). The symmetry of the interpolated sites allowed quantifying the directional differences in correlations at the same distance. The correlation distances d 0 of R, k_Ka, and k_Ku were approximately 10 km and were not sensitive to the choice of four rain thresholds used in this study. The d 0 of Z_Ku, on the other hand, ranged from 29 to 20 km between different rain thresholds. The coefficient of variation (CV) remained less than 0.5 for most of the samples for a given physical parameter, but a CV of greater than 1.0 was also observed in noticeable samples, especially for the shape parameter and Z_Ku.

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Ali Tokay, Leo Pio D’Adderio, David A. Marks, Jason L. Pippitt, David B. Wolff, and Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

The ground-based-radar-derived raindrop size distribution (DSD) parameters—mass-weighted drop diameter D mass and normalized intercept parameter N W—are the sole resource for direct validation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission Core Observatory satellite-based retrieved DSD. Both D mass and N W are obtained from radar-measured reflectivity Z H and differential reflectivity Z DR through empirical relationships. This study uses existing relationships that were determined for the GPM ground validation (GV) program and directly compares the NASA S-band polarimetric radar (NPOL) observables of Z H and Z DR and derived D mass and N W with those calculated by two-dimensional video disdrometer (2DVD). The joint NPOL and 2DVD datasets were acquired during three GPM GV field campaigns conducted in eastern Iowa, southern Appalachia, and western Washington State. The comparative study quantifies the level of agreement for Z H, Z DR, D mass, and log(N W) at an optimum distance (15–40 km) from the radar as well as at distances greater than 60 km from radar and over mountainous terrain. Interestingly, roughly 10%–15% of the NPOL Z HZ DR pairs were well outside the envelope of 2DVD-estimated Z HZ DR pairs. The exclusion of these pairs improved the comparisons noticeably.

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