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Wind drift of snowfall between the radar volume and ground

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Title: Wind drift of snowfall between the radar volume and ground
Author(s): Lauri, Tuomo
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics
Discipline: Meteorology
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2010
This study evaluates how the advection of precipitation, or wind drift, between the radar volume and ground affects radar measurements of precipitation. Normally precipitation is assumed to fall vertically to the ground from the contributing volume, and thus the radar measurement represents the geographical location immediately below. In this study radar measurements are corrected using hydrometeor trajectories calculated from measured and forecasted winds, and the effect of trajectory-correction on the radar measurements is evaluated. Wind drift statistics for Finland are compiled using sounding data from two weather stations spanning two years. For each sounding, the hydrometeor phase at ground level is estimated and drift distance calculated using different originating level heights. This way the drift statistics are constructed as a function of range from radar and elevation angle. On average, wind drift of 1 km was exceeded at approximately 60 km distance, while drift of 10 km was exceeded at 100 km distance. Trajectories were calculated using model winds in order to produce a trajectory-corrected ground field from radar PPI images. It was found that at the upwind side from the radar the effective measuring area was reduced as some trajectories exited the radar volume scan. In the downwind side areas near the edge of the radar measuring area experience improved precipitation detection. The effect of trajectory-correction is most prominent in instant measurements and diminishes when accumulating over longer time periods. Furthermore, measurements of intensive and small scale precipitation patterns benefit most from wind drift correction. The contribution of wind drift on the uncertainty of estimated Ze (S) - relationship was studied by simulating the effect of different error sources to the uncertainty in the relationship coefficients a and b. The overall uncertainty was assumed to consist of systematic errors of both the radar and the gauge, as well as errors by turbulence at the gauge orifice and by wind drift of precipitation. The focus of the analysis is error associated with wind drift, which was determined by describing the spatial structure of the reflectivity field using spatial autocovariance (or variogram). This spatial structure was then used with calculated drift distances to estimate the variance in radar measurement produced by precipitation drift, relative to the other error sources. It was found that error by wind drift was of similar magnitude with error by turbulence at gauge orifice at all ranges from radar, with systematic errors of the instruments being a minor issue. The correction method presented in the study could be used in radar nowcasting products to improve the estimation of visibility and local precipitation intensities. The method however only considers pure snow, and for operational purposes some improvements are desirable, such as melting layer detection, VPR correction and taking solid state hydrometeor type into account, which would improve the estimation of vertical velocities of the hydrometeors.

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