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Characterization of disdrometer uncertainties and impacts on estimates of snowfall rate and radar reflectivity

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Author(s): N. B. Wood | T. S. L'Ecuyer | F. L. Bliven | G. L. Stephens

Journal: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions
ISSN 1867-8610

Volume: 6;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 6329;
Date: 2013;
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ABSTRACT
Estimates of snow microphysical properties obtained by analyzing collections of individual particles are often limited to short time scales and coarse time resolution. Retrievals using disdrometer observations coincident with bulk measurements such as radar reflectivity and snowfall amounts may overcome these limitations; however, retrieval techniques using such observations require uncertainty estimates not only for the bulk measurements themselves, but also for the simulated measurements modeled from the disdrometer observations. Disdrometer uncertainties arise due to sampling and analytic errors and to the discrete, potentially truncated form of the reported size distributions. Imaging disdrometers such as the Snowflake Video Imager and 2-D Video Disdrometer provide remarkably detailed representations of snow particles, but view limited projections of their three-dimensional shapes. Particle sizes determined by such instruments underestimate the true dimensions of the particles in a way that depends, in the mean, on particle shape, also contributing to uncertainties. An uncertainty model that accounts for these uncertainties is developed and used to establish their contributions to simulated radar reflectivity and snowfall rate. Viewing geometry effects are characterized by a parameter, φ, that relates disdrometer-observed particle size to the true maximum dimension of the particle. Values and uncertainties for φ are estimated using idealized ellipsoidal snow particles. The model is applied to observations from seven snow events from the Canadian CloudSat CALIPSO Validation Project (C3VP), a mid-latitude cold season cloud and precipitation field experiment. Typical total uncertainties are 4 dBZ for reflectivity and 40–60% for snowfall rate, are highly correlated, and are substantial compared to expected observational uncertainties. The dominant sources of errors are viewing geometry effects and the discrete, truncated form of the size distributions. While modeled Ze-S relationships are strongly affected by assumptions about snow particle mass properties, such relationships are only modestly sensitive to φ owing to partially compensating effects on both the reflectivity and snowfall rate.
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