Improving the representation of snow crystal properties within a single-moment microphysics scheme

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Thursday, 21 January 2010: 9:30 AM
B302 (GWCC)
Andrew L. Molthan, NASA/MSFC, Huntsville, AL; and W. A. Petersen, J. L. Case, and S. R. Dembek

Presentation PDF (674.8 kB)

Single-moment microphysics schemes are utilized in an increasing number of applications and are widely available within numerical modeling packages, often executed in near real-time to aid in the issuance of weather forecasts and advisories. In order to simulate cloud microphysical and precipitation processes, a number of assumptions are made within these schemes. Snow crystals are often assumed to be spherical and of uniform density, and their size distribution intercept may be fixed to simplify calculation of the remaining parameters.

Recently, the Canadian CloudSat/CALIPSO Validation Project (C3VP) provided aircraft observations of snow crystal size distributions and environmental state variables, sampling widespread snowfall associated with a passing extratropical cyclone on 22 January 2007. Aircraft instrumentation was supplemented by comparable surface estimations and sampling by two radars: the C-band, dual-polarimetric radar in King City, Ontario and the NASA CloudSat 94 GHz Cloud Profiling Radar. As radar systems respond to both hydrometeor mass and size distribution, they provide value when assessing the accuracy of cloud characteristics as simulated by a forecast model. However, simulation of the 94 GHz radar signal requires special attention, as radar backscatter is sensitive to the assumed crystal shape.

Observations obtained during the 22 January 2007 event are used to validate assumptions of density and size distribution within the NASA Goddard six-class single-moment microphysics scheme. Two high resolution forecasts are performed on a 9-3-1 km grid, with C3VP-based alternative parameterizations incorporated and examined for improvement. In order to apply the CloudSat 94 GHz radar to model validation, the single scattering characteristics of various crystal types are used and demonstrate that the assumption of Mie spheres is insufficient for representing CloudSat reflectivity derived from winter precipitation. Furthermore, snow density and size distribution characteristics are allowed to vary with height, based upon direct aircraft estimates obtained from C3VP data. These combinations improve the representation of modeled clouds versus their radar-observed counterparts, based on profiles and vertical distributions of reflectivity.

These meteorological events are commonplace within the mid-latitude cold season and present a challenge to operational forecasters. This study focuses on one event, likely representative of others during the winter season, and aims to improve the representation of snow for use in future operational forecasts. In addition, incorporating snow crystal scattering characteristics based upon non-spherical shapes may improve interpretations from CloudSat and other remote sensors.

Supplementary URL: http://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/sport