Classification of Precipitation Types during Transitional Winter Weather Using the RUC Model and Polarimetric Radar Retrievals
Abstract A new hydrometeor classification algorithm that combines thermodynamic output from the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) model with polarimetric radar observations is introduced. The algorithm improves upon existing classification techniques that rely solely on polarimetric radar observations by using thermodynamic information to help to diagnose microphysical processes (such as melting or refreezing) that might occur aloft. This added information is especially important for transitional weather events for which past studies have shown radar-only techniques to be deficient. The algorithm first uses vertical profiles of wet-bulb temperature derived from the RUC model output to provide a background precipitation classification type. According to a set of empirical rules, polarimetric radar data are then used to refine precipitation-type categories when the observations are found to be inconsistent with the background classification. Using data from the polarimetric KOUN Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) located in Norman, Oklahoma, the algorithm is tested on a transitional winter-storm event that produced a combination of rain, freezing rain, ice pellets, and snow as it passed over central Oklahoma on 30 November 2006. Examples are presented in which the presence of a radar bright band (suggesting an elevated warm layer) is observed immediately above a background classification of dry snow (suggesting the absence of an elevated warm layer in the model output). Overall, the results demonstrate the potential benefits of combining polarimetric radar data with thermodynamic information from numerical models, with model output providing widespread coverage and polarimetric radar data providing an observation-based modification of the derived precipitation type at closer ranges.