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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 1377-1384, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
08 Mar 2018
Raindrop fall velocities from an optical array probe and 2-D video disdrometer
Viswanathan Bringi1, Merhala Thurai1, and Darrel Baumgardner2 1Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
2Droplet Measurements Technologies, Longmont, Colorado, USA
Abstract. We report on fall speed measurements of raindrops in light-to-heavy rain events from two climatically different regimes (Greeley, Colorado, and Huntsville, Alabama) using the high-resolution (50 µm) Meteorological Particle Spectrometer (MPS) and a third-generation (170 µm resolution) 2-D video disdrometer (2DVD). To mitigate wind effects, especially for the small drops, both instruments were installed within a 2∕3-scale Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) enclosure. Two cases involved light-to-moderate wind speeds/gusts while the third case was a tornadic supercell and several squall lines that passed over the site with high wind speeds/gusts. As a proxy for turbulent intensity, maximum wind speeds from 10 m height at the instrumented site recorded every 3 s were differenced with the 5 min average wind speeds and then squared. The fall speeds vs. size from 0.1 to 2 and  > 0.7 mm were derived from the MPS and the 2DVD, respectively. Consistency of fall speeds from the two instruments in the overlap region (0.7–2 mm) gave confidence in the data quality and processing methodologies. Our results indicate that under low turbulence, the mean fall speeds agree well with fits to the terminal velocity measured in the laboratory by Gunn and Kinzer from 100 µm up to precipitation sizes. The histograms of fall speeds for 0.5, 0.7, 1 and 1.5 mm sizes were examined in detail under the same conditions. The histogram shapes for the 1 and 1.5 mm sizes were symmetric and in good agreement between the two instruments with no evidence of skewness or of sub- or super-terminal fall speeds. The histograms of the smaller 0.5 and 0.7 mm drops from MPS, while generally symmetric, showed that occasional occurrences of sub- and super-terminal fall speeds could not be ruled out. In the supercell case, the very strong gusts and inferred high turbulence intensity caused a significant broadening of the fall speed distributions with negative skewness (for drops of 1.3, 2 and 3 mm). The mean fall speeds were also found to decrease nearly linearly with increasing turbulent intensity attaining values about 25–30 % less than the terminal velocity of Gunn–Kinzer, i.e., sub-terminal fall speeds.
Citation: Bringi, V., Thurai, M., and Baumgardner, D.: Raindrop fall velocities from an optical array probe and 2-D video disdrometer, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 1377-1384,, 2018.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Raindrop fall velocities are important for rain rate estimation, soil erosion studies and in numerical modelling of rain formation in clouds. The assumption that the fall velocity is uniquely related to drop size is made inherently based on laboratory measurements under still air conditions from nearly 68 years ago. There have been very few measurements of drop fall speeds in natural rain under both still and turbulent wind conditions. We report on fall speed measurements in natural rain shafts.
Raindrop fall velocities are important for rain rate estimation, soil erosion studies and in...