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Development of an Operational Convective Nowcasting Algorithm Using Raindrop Size Sorting Information from Polarimetric Radar Data
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    Weather and Forecasting, 33(5), 1477-1495.
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  • Description:
    Raindrop size sorting is a ubiquitous microphysical occurrence in precipitating systems. Owing to the greater terminal fall speed of larger particles, a raindrop's fall trajectory can be sensitive to its size, and strong air currents (e.g., a convective updraft) can enhance this sensitivity. Indeed, observational and numerical model simulation studies have confirmed these effects on raindrop size distributions near convective updrafts. One striking example is the lofting of liquid drops and partially frozen hydrometeors above the environmental 0 degrees C level, resulting in a small columnar region of positive differential reflectivity Z(DR) in polarimetric radar data, known as the Z(DR) column. This signature can serve as a proxy for updraft location and strength, offering operational forecasters a tool for monitoring convective trends. Beneath the 0 degrees C level, where WSR-88D spatiotemporal resolution is highest, anomalously high Z(DR) collocated with lower reflectivity factor at horizontal polarization Z(H) is often observed within and beneath convective updrafts. Here, size sorting creates a deficit in small drops, while relatively large drops and melting hydrometeors are present in low concentrations. As such, this unique raindrop size distribution and its related polarimetric signature can indicate updraft location sooner and more frequently than the detection of a Z(DR) column. This paper introduces a novel algorithm that capitalizes on the improved radar coverage at lower levels and automates the detection of this size sorting signature. At the algorithm core, unique Z(H)-Z(DR) relationships are created for each radar elevation scan, and positive Z(DR) outliers (often indicative of size sorting) are identified. Algorithm design, examples, performance, strengths and limitations, and future development are discussed.
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