Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (Sep 2020)

Mind the gap – Part 2: Improving quantitative estimates of cloud and rain water path in oceanic warm rain using spaceborne radars

  • A. Battaglia,
  • A. Battaglia,
  • A. Battaglia,
  • P. Kollias,
  • P. Kollias,
  • R. Dhillon,
  • K. Lamer,
  • M. Khairoutdinov,
  • D. Watters,
  • D. Watters

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13
pp. 4865 – 4883


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The intrinsic small spatial scales and low-reflectivity structure of oceanic warm precipitating clouds suggest that millimeter spaceborne radars are best suited to providing quantitative estimates of cloud and rain liquid water paths (LWPs). This assertion is based on their smaller horizontal footprint; high sensitivities; and a wide dynamic range of path-integrated attenuations associated with warm-rain cells across the millimeter wavelength spectrum, with diverse spectral responses to rain and cloud partitioning. State-of-the-art single-frequency radar profiling algorithms of warm rain seem to be inadequate because of their dependence on uncertain assumptions about the rain–cloud partitioning and because of the rain microphysics. Here, high-resolution cloud-resolving model simulations for the Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean field study and a spaceborne forward radar simulator are exploited to assess the potential of existing and future spaceborne radar systems for quantitative warm-rain microphysical retrievals. Specifically, the detrimental effects of nonuniform beam filling on estimates of path-integrated attenuation (PIA), the added value of brightness temperature (TB) derived adopting radiometric radar modes, and the performances of multifrequency PIA and/or TB combinations when retrieving liquid water paths partitioned into cloud (c-LWPs) and rain (r-LWPs) are assessed. Results show that (1) Ka- and W-band TB values add useful constraints and are effective at lower LWPs than the same-frequency PIAs; (2) matched-beam combined TB values and PIAs from single-frequency or multifrequency radars can significantly narrow down uncertainties in retrieved cloud and rain liquid water paths; and (3) the configuration including PIAs, TB values and near-surface reflectivities for the Ka-band–W-band pairs in our synthetic retrieval can achieve an RMSE of better than 30 % for c-LWPs and r-LWPs exceeding 100 g m−2.