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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 9 | Copyright
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 5181-5198, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-11-5181-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Sep 2018

Research article | 12 Sep 2018

Characterisation of the melting layer variability in an Alpine valley based on polarimetric X-band radar scans

Floor van den Heuvel1,2, Marco Gabella2, Urs Germann2, and Alexis Berne1 Floor van den Heuvel et al.
  • 1Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology (MeteoSwiss), Locarno-Monti, Switzerland

Abstract. The melting layer designates the transition region from solid to liquid precipitation, and is a typical feature of the vertical structure of stratiform precipitation. As it is characterised by a well-known signature in polarimetric radar variables, it can be identified by automatic detection algorithms. Though often assumed to be uniform in space and time for applications such as vertical profile correction, the spatial variability of the melting layer remains poorly documented. This work aims to characterise and quantify the spatial and temporal variability of the melting layer using a method based on the Fourier transform, which is applied to high-resolution X-band polarimetric radar data from two measurement campaigns in Switzerland. It is first demonstrated that the proposed method can accurately and concisely describe the spatial variability of the melting layer and may therefore be used as a tool for comparison. The method is then used to characterise the melting layer variability in summer precipitation on the relatively flat Swiss Plateau and in winter precipitation in a large inner Alpine valley (the Rhone valley in the Swiss Alps). Results indicate a higher contribution of smaller spatial scales to the total melting layer variability in the case of the Alpine environment. The same method is also applied to data from vertical scans in order to study the temporal variability of the melting layer. The variability in space and time is then compared to investigate the spatio-temporal coherence of the melting layer variability in the two study areas, which was found to be more consistent with the assumption of pure advection for the case of the plateau.

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The paper aims at characterising and quantifying the spatio-temporal variability of the melting layer (ML; transition zone from solid to liquid precipitation). A method based on the Fourier transform is found to accurately describe different ML signatures. Hence, it is applied to characterise the ML variability in a relatively flat area and in an inner Alpine valley in Switzerland, where the variability at smaller spatial scales is found to be relatively more important.
The paper aims at characterising and quantifying the spatio-temporal variability of the melting...
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