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Climatological Characterization of Three-Dimensional Storm Structure from Operational Radar and Rain Gauge Data

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Three algorithms extract information on precipitation type, structure, and amount from operational radar and rain gauge data. Tests on one month of data from one site show that the algorithms perform accurately and provide products that characterize the essential features of the precipitation climatology. Input to the algorithms are the operationally executed volume scans of a radar and the data from a surrounding rain gauge network. The algorithms separate the radar echoes into convective and stratiform regions, statistically summarize the vertical structure of the radar echoes, and determine precipitation rates and amounts on high spatial resolution.

The convective and stratiform regions are separated on the basis of the intensity and sharpness of the peaks of echo intensity. The peaks indicate the centers of the convective region. Precipitation not identified as convective is stratiform. This method avoids the problem of underestimating the stratiform precipitation. The separation criteria are applied in exactly the same way throughout the observational domain and the product generated by the algorithm can be compared directly to model output. An independent test of the algorithm on data for which high-resolution dual-Doppler observations are available shows that the convective stratiform separation algorithm is consistent with the physical definitions of convective and stratiform precipitation.

The vertical structure algorithm presents the frequency distribution of radar reflectivity as a function of height and thus summarizes in a single plot the vertical structure of all the radar echoes observed during a month (or any other time period). Separate plots reveal the essential differences in structure between the convective and stratiform echoes.

Tests yield similar results (within less than 10%) for monthly rain statistics regardless of the technique used for estimating the precipitation, as long as the radar reflectivity values are adjusted to agree with monthly rain gauge data. It makes little difference whether the adjustment is by monthly mean rates or percentiles. Further tests show that 1-h sampling is sufficient to obtain an accurate estimate of monthly rain statistics.

Abstract

Three algorithms extract information on precipitation type, structure, and amount from operational radar and rain gauge data. Tests on one month of data from one site show that the algorithms perform accurately and provide products that characterize the essential features of the precipitation climatology. Input to the algorithms are the operationally executed volume scans of a radar and the data from a surrounding rain gauge network. The algorithms separate the radar echoes into convective and stratiform regions, statistically summarize the vertical structure of the radar echoes, and determine precipitation rates and amounts on high spatial resolution.

The convective and stratiform regions are separated on the basis of the intensity and sharpness of the peaks of echo intensity. The peaks indicate the centers of the convective region. Precipitation not identified as convective is stratiform. This method avoids the problem of underestimating the stratiform precipitation. The separation criteria are applied in exactly the same way throughout the observational domain and the product generated by the algorithm can be compared directly to model output. An independent test of the algorithm on data for which high-resolution dual-Doppler observations are available shows that the convective stratiform separation algorithm is consistent with the physical definitions of convective and stratiform precipitation.

The vertical structure algorithm presents the frequency distribution of radar reflectivity as a function of height and thus summarizes in a single plot the vertical structure of all the radar echoes observed during a month (or any other time period). Separate plots reveal the essential differences in structure between the convective and stratiform echoes.

Tests yield similar results (within less than 10%) for monthly rain statistics regardless of the technique used for estimating the precipitation, as long as the radar reflectivity values are adjusted to agree with monthly rain gauge data. It makes little difference whether the adjustment is by monthly mean rates or percentiles. Further tests show that 1-h sampling is sufficient to obtain an accurate estimate of monthly rain statistics.

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