Articles | Volume 17, issue 19
Research article
10 Oct 2017
Research article |  | 10 Oct 2017

Using snowflake surface-area-to-volume ratio to model and interpret snowfall triple-frequency radar signatures

Mathias Gergely, Steven J. Cooper, and Timothy J. Garrett

Abstract. The snowflake microstructure determines the microwave scattering properties of individual snowflakes and has a strong impact on snowfall radar signatures. In this study, individual snowflakes are represented by collections of randomly distributed ice spheres where the size and number of the constituent ice spheres are specified by the snowflake mass and surface-area-to-volume ratio (SAV) and the bounding volume of each ice sphere collection is given by the snowflake maximum dimension. Radar backscatter cross sections for the ice sphere collections are calculated at X-, Ku-, Ka-, and W-band frequencies and then used to model triple-frequency radar signatures for exponential snowflake size distributions (SSDs). Additionally, snowflake complexity values obtained from high-resolution multi-view snowflake images are used as an indicator of snowflake SAV to derive snowfall triple-frequency radar signatures. The modeled snowfall triple-frequency radar signatures cover a wide range of triple-frequency signatures that were previously determined from radar reflectivity measurements and illustrate characteristic differences related to snow type, quantified through snowflake SAV, and snowflake size. The results show high sensitivity to snowflake SAV and SSD maximum size but are generally less affected by uncertainties in the parameterization of snowflake mass, indicating the importance of snowflake SAV for the interpretation of snowfall triple-frequency radar signatures.

Short summary
This study investigates the importance of snowflake surface-area-to-volume ratio (SAV) for the interpretation of snowfall triple-frequency radar signatures. The results indicate that snowflake SAV has a strong impact on modeled snowfall radar signatures and therefore may be used to further constrain (the large variety and high natural variability of) snowflake shape for snowfall remote sensing, e.g., to distinguish graupel snow from snowfall characterized by large aggregate snowflakes.
Final-revised paper