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

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Atmos. Meas. Tech., 6, 3635-3648, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
20 Dec 2013
Characterization of video disdrometer uncertainties and impacts on estimates of snowfall rate and radar reflectivity
N. B. Wood1, T. S. L'Ecuyer2, F. L. Bliven3, and G. L. Stephens4 1Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
3Earth Sciences Division, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, Wallops Island, Virginia, USA
4Center for Climate Sciences, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
Abstract. Estimates of snow microphysical properties obtained by analyzing collections of individual particles are often limited to short timescales 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 dB for reflectivity and 40–60% for snowfall rate, are highly correlated, and are substantial compared to expected uncertainties for radar and precipitation gauge observations. 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.

Citation: Wood, N. B., L'Ecuyer, T. S., Bliven, F. L., and Stephens, G. L.: Characterization of video disdrometer uncertainties and impacts on estimates of snowfall rate and radar reflectivity, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 6, 3635-3648,, 2013.
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