Connecting microphysical processes in colorado winter storms with vertical profiles of radar observations

Robert S. Schrom, Matthew R. Kumjian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


To better connect radar observations to microphysical processes, the authors analyze concurrent polarimetric radar observations at vertical incidence and roughly side incidence during the Front Range Orographic Storms (FROST) project. Data from three events show signatures of riming, aggregation, and dendritic growth. Riming and the growth of graupel are suggested by negative differential reflectivity ZDR and vertically pointing Doppler velocity magnitude |VR| > 2.0 m s-1; aggregation is indicated by maxima in the downward-relative gradient of radar reflectivity at horizontal polarization ZH below the -15°C isotherm and positive downward-relative gradients in |VR| when averaged over time. A signature of positive downward-relative gradients in ZH, negative downward-relative gradients in |VR|, and maxima in ZDR is observed near -15°C during all three events. This signature may be indicative of dendritic growth; preexisting, thick platelike crystals fall faster and grow slower than dendrites, allowing for |VR| to shift toward the slower-falling, rapidly growing dendrites. To test this hypothesis, simplified calculations of the ZH and |VR| gradients are performed for a range of terminal fall speeds of dendrites and isometric crystals. The authors prescribe linear profiles of ZH for the dendrites and isometric crystals, with the resulting profiles and gradients of |VR| determined from a range of particle fall speeds. Both the observed ZH and |VR| gradients are reproduced by the calculations for a large range of fall speeds. However, more observational data are needed to fully constrain these calculations and reject or support explanations for this signature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1771-1787
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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