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Yixin Wen, Terry Schuur, Humberto Vergara, and Charles Kuster

Abstract

Quantitative precipitation estimates (QPE) at high spatiotemporal resolution are essential for flash flood forecasting, especially in urban environments and headwater areas. An accurate quantification of precipitation is directly related to the temporal and spatial sampling of the precipitation system. The advent of phased array radar (PAR) technology, a potential next-generation weather radar, can provide updates that are at least 4-5 times faster than the conventional WSR-88D scanning rate. In this study, data collected by the KOUN WSR-88D radar with ~1 minute temporal resolution is used as an approximation of data that a future PAR system could provide to force the Ensemble Framework for Flash Flood Forecasting (EF5) hydrologic model. To assess the effect of errors resulting from temporal and spatial sampling of precipitation on flash flood warnings, KOUN precipitation data (1-km/1-min) is used to generate precipitation products at other spatial/temporal resolutions commonly used in hydrologic models, such as those provided by conventional WSR-88D radar (1-km/5-min), spaced-based observations (10-km/30-min), and hourly rainfall products (1-km/60-min). The effect of precipitation sampling errors on flash flood warnings are then examined and quantified by using discharge simulated from KOUN (1-km/1-min) as truth to assess simulations conducted using other generated coarser spatial/temporal resolutions of other precipitation products. Our results show that: 1) observations with coarse spatial and temporal sampling can cause large errors in quantification of the amount, intensity, and distribution of precipitation, 2) time series of precipitation products show that QPE peak values decrease as the temporal resolution gets coarser, and 3) the effect of precipitation sampling error on flash flood forecasting is large in headwater areas and decrease quickly as drainage area increases.

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Yixin Wen, Pierre Kirstetter, J. J. Gourley, Yang Hong, Ali Behrangi, and Zachary Flamig

Abstract

Snow is important to water resources and is of critical importance to society. Ground-weather-radar-based snowfall observations have been highly desirable for large-scale weather monitoring and water resources applications. This study conducts an evaluation of the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) quantitative estimates of snow rate using the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) daily snow water equivalent (SWE) datasets. A detectability evaluation shows that MRMS is limited in detecting very light snow (daily snow accumulation <5 mm) because of the quality control module in MRMS filtering out weak signals (<5 dBZ). For daily snow accumulation greater than 10 mm, MRMS has good detectability. The quantitative comparisons reveal a bias of −77.37% between MRMS and SNOTEL. A majority of the underestimation bias occurs in relatively warm conditions with surface temperatures ranging from −10° to 0°C. A constant reflectivity–SWE intensity relationship does not capture the snow mass flux increase associated with denser snow particles at these relatively warm temperatures. There is no clear dependence of the bias on radar beam height. The findings in this study indicate that further improvement in radar snowfall products might occur by deriving appropriate reflectivity–SWE relationships considering the degree of riming and snowflake size.

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Lingzhi Zhong, Rongfang Yang, Lin Chen, Yixin Wen, Ruiyi Li, Guoqiang Tang, and Yang Hong

Abstract

This study presents a statistical analysis of the variability of the vertical structure of precipitation in the eastern downstream region of the Tibetan Plateau as measured by the Precipitation Radar (PR) on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. Data were analyzed over an 11-yr time span (January 2004–December 2014). The results show the seasonal and spatial variability of the storm height, freezing level, and bright band for different types of precipitation as well as the characteristics of intensity-related and type-related vertical profiles of reflectivity (VPR). Major findings were as follows: About 90% of the brightband peak reflectivity of stratiform precipitation was less than 32 dBZ, and 40% of the maximum reflectivity of convective precipitation exceeded 35 dBZ. The intensity of surface rainfall rates also depended on the shapes of VPRs. For stratiform precipitation, ice–snow aggregation was faster during moderate and heavy rainfall than it was in light rainfall. Since both the moisture and temperature are lower in winter, the transformation efficiency of hydrometeors becomes slower. Typical Ku-band representative climatological VPRs (CPRs) for stratiform precipitation have been created on the basis of the integration of normalized VPR shape for the given area and the rainfall intensity. All of the findings indicate that the developed CPRs can be used to improve surface precipitation estimates in regions with complex terrain where the ground-based radar net has limited visibility at low levels.

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Qing Cao, Yang Hong, Jonathan J. Gourley, Youcun Qi, Jian Zhang, Yixin Wen, and Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter

Abstract

This study presents a statistical analysis of the vertical structure of precipitation measured by NASA–Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) in the region of southern California, Arizona, and western New Mexico, where the ground-based Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) network finds difficulties in accurately measuring surface precipitation because of beam blockages by complex terrain. This study has applied TRMM PR version-7 products 2A23 and 2A25 from 1 January 2000 to 26 October 2011. The seasonal, spatial, intensity-related, and type-related variabilities are characterized for the PR vertical profile of reflectivity (VPR) as well as the heights of storm, freezing level, and bright band. The intensification and weakening of reflectivity at low levels in the VPR are studied through fitting physically based VPR slopes. Major findings include the following: precipitation type is the most significant factor determining the characteristics of VPRs, the shape of VPRs also influences the intensity of surface rainfall rates, the characteristics of VPRs have a seasonal dependence with strong similarities between the spring and autumn months, and the spatial variation of VPR characteristics suggests that the underlying terrain has an impact on the vertical structure. The comprehensive statistical and physical analysis strengthens the understanding of the vertical structure of precipitation and advocates for the approach of VPR correction to improve surface precipitation estimation in complex terrain.

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Yixin Wen, Qing Cao, Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter, Yang Hong, Jonathan J. Gourley, Jian Zhang, Guifu Zhang, and Bin Yong

Abstract

This study proposes an approach that identifies and corrects for the vertical profile of reflectivity (VPR) by using Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) measurements in the region of Arizona and southern California, where the ground-based Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) finds difficulties in making reliable estimations of surface precipitation amounts because of complex terrain and limited radar coverage. A VPR identification and enhancement (VPR-IE) method based on the modeling of the vertical variations of the equivalent reflectivity factor using a physically based parameterization is employed to obtain a representative VPR at S band from the TRMM PR measurement at Ku band. Then the representative VPR is convolved with ground radar beam sampling properties to compute apparent VPRs for enhancing NEXRAD quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE). The VPR-IE methodology is evaluated with several stratiform precipitation events during the cold season and is compared to two other statistically based correction methods, that is, the TRMM PR–based rainfall calibration and a range ring–based adjustment scheme. The results show that the VPR-IE has the best overall performance and provides much more accurate surface rainfall estimates than the original ground-based radar QPE. The potential of the VPR-IE method could be further exploited and better utilized when the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission's dual-frequency PR is launched in 2014, with anticipated accuracy improvements and expanded latitude coverage.

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Yixin Wen, Yang Hong, Guifu Zhang, Terry J. Schuur, Jonathan J. Gourley, Zac Flamig, K. Robert Morris, and Qing Cao

Abstract

Ground-based polarimetric weather radar is arguably the most powerful validation tool that provides physical insight into the development and interpretation of spaceborne weather radar algorithms and observations. This study aims to compare and resolve discrepancies in hydrometeor retrievals and reflectivity observations between the NOAA/National Severe Storm Laboratory “proof of concept” KOUN polarimetric Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) and the spaceborne precipitation radar (PR) on board NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) platform. An intercomparison of PR and KOUN melting-layer heights retrieved from 2 to 5 km MSL shows a high correlation coefficient of 0.88 with relative bias of 5.9%. A resolution volume–matching technique is used to compare simultaneous TRMM PR and KOUN reflectivity observations. The comparisons reveal an overall bias of <0.2% between PR and KOUN. The bias is hypothesized to be from non-Rayleigh scattering effects and/or errors in attenuation correction procedures applied to Ku-band PR measurements. By comparing reflectivity with respect to different hydrometeor types (as determined by KOUN’s hydrometeor classification algorithm), it is found that the bias is from echoes that are classified as rain–hail mixture, wet snow, graupel, and heavy rain. These results agree with expectations from backscattering calculations at Ku and S bands, but with the notable exception of dry snow. Comparison of vertical reflectivity profiles shows that PR suffers significant attenuation at lower altitudes, especially in convective rain and in the melting layer. The attenuation correction performs very well for both stratiform and convective rain, however. In light of the imminent upgrade of the U.S. national weather radar network to include polarimetric capabilities, the findings in this study will potentially serve as the basis for nationwide validation of space-based precipitation products and also invite synergistic development of coordinated space–ground multisensor precipitation products.

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Yixin Wen, Pierre Kirstetter, Yang Hong, Jonathan J. Gourley, Qing Cao, Jian Zhang, Zac Flamig, and Xianwu Xue

Abstract

Over mountainous terrain, ground weather radars face limitations in monitoring surface precipitation as they are affected by radar beam blockages along with the range-dependent biases due to beam broadening and increase in altitude with range. These issues are compounded by precipitation structures that are relatively shallow and experience growth at low levels due to orographic enhancement. To improve surface precipitation estimation, researchers at the University of Oklahoma have demonstrated the benefits of integrating the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) products into the ground-based NEXRAD rainfall estimation system using a vertical profile of reflectivity (VPR) identification and enhancement (VPR-IE) approach. However, the temporal resolution of TRMM limits the application of VPR-IE method operationally. To implement the VPR-IE concept into the National Mosaic and Multi-Sensor QPE (NMQ) system in real time, climatological VPRs from 11 years of TRMM PR observations have been characterized for different stratiform/convective rain types, seasons, and surface rain intensities. Then, these representative profiles are used to adjust ground radar–based precipitation estimates in the NMQ system based on different precipitation structures. This study conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the newly developed climatological VPR-IE (CVPR-IE) method on winter events (January, February, and December) in 2011. The statistical analysis reveals that the CVPR-IE method provides a clear improvement over the original radar QPE in the NMQ system for the study region. Compared to physically based VPRs from real-time PR measurements, climatological VPRs have limitations in representing precipitation structure for individual events. A hybrid correction scheme incorporating both climatological and real-time VPR information is desired for better skill in the future.

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Mark Weber, Kurt Hondl, Nusrat Yussouf, Youngsun Jung, Derek Stratman, Bryan Putnam, Xuguang Wang, Terry Schuur, Charles Kuster, Yixin Wen, Juanzhen Sun, Jeff Keeler, Zhuming Ying, John Cho, James Kurdzo, Sebastian Torres, Chris Curtis, David Schvartzman, Jami Boettcher, Feng Nai, Henry Thomas, Dusan Zrnić, Igor Ivić, Djordje Mirković, Caleb Fulton, Jorge Salazar, Guifu Zhang, Robert Palmer, Mark Yeary, Kevin Cooley, Michael Istok, and Mark Vincent

Abstract

This article summarizes research and risk reduction that will inform acquisition decisions regarding NOAA’s future national operational weather radar network. A key alternative being evaluated is polarimetric phased-array radar (PAR). Research indicates PAR can plausibly achieve fast, adaptive volumetric scanning, with associated benefits for severe-weather warning performance. We assess these benefits using storm observations and analyses, observing system simulation experiments, and real radar-data assimilation studies. Changes in the number and/or locations of radars in the future network could improve coverage at low altitude. Analysis of benefits that might be so realized indicates the possibility for additional improvement in severe-weather and flash-flood warning performance, with associated reduction in casualties. Simulations are used to evaluate techniques for rapid volumetric scanning and assess data quality characteristics of PAR. Finally, we describe progress in developing methods to compensate for polarimetric variable estimate biases introduced by electronic beam-steering. A research-to-operations (R2O) strategy for the PAR alternative for the WSR-88D replacement network is presented.

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