Articles | Volume 17, issue 18
Research article
27 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 27 Sep 2017

Improved rain rate and drop size retrievals from airborne Doppler radar

Shannon L. Mason, J. Christine Chiu, Robin J. Hogan, and Lin Tian

Abstract. Satellite remote sensing of rain is important for quantifying the hydrological cycle, atmospheric energy budget, and cloud and precipitation processes; however, radar retrievals of rain rate are sensitive to assumptions about the raindrop size distribution. The upcoming EarthCARE satellite will feature a 94 GHz Doppler radar alongside lidar and radiometer instruments, presenting opportunities for enhanced retrievals of the raindrop size distribution. We demonstrate the capability to retrieve rain rate as a function of drop size and drop number concentration from airborne 94 GHz Doppler radar measurements using CAPTIVATE, the variational retrieval algorithm developed for EarthCARE. For a range of rain regimes observed during the Tropical Composition, Cloud and Climate Coupling field campaign, we explore the contributions of mean Doppler velocity and path-integrated attenuation (PIA) measurements to the retrieval of rain rate, and the retrievals are evaluated against independent measurements from an independent 9.6 GHz Doppler radar. The retrieved drop number concentrations vary over 5 orders of magnitude between very light rain from melting ice and warm rain from liquid clouds. In light rain conditions mean Doppler velocity facilitates estimates of rain rate without PIA, suggesting the possibility of EarthCARE rain rate estimates over land; in moderate warm rain, drop number concentration can be retrieved without mean Doppler velocity, with possible applications to CloudSat.

Short summary
Airborne Doppler radar measurements are used to estimate the properties of tropical stratiform rain. Doppler velocity measurements provide sufficient information to estimate the rain rate over land and also to retrieve the raindrop size distribution over ocean, addressing major uncertainties in current satellite measurements of rain. These results suggest that EarthCARE, with the first space-borne Doppler radar, will facilitate improved global measurements of rain.
Final-revised paper