Articles | Volume 19, issue 3
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1141–1152, 2015

Special issue: Precipitation: measurement and space time variability

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1141–1152, 2015

Research article 02 Mar 2015

Research article | 02 Mar 2015

Polarimetric radar observations during an orographic rain event

M. Frech1 and J. Steinert2 M. Frech and J. Steinert
  • 1DWD, German Meteorological Service, Meteorologisches Observatorium Hohenpeißenberg, Albin-Schwaiger-Weg 10, 82383 Hohenpeißenberg, Germany
  • 2DWD, German Meteorological Service, Frankfurter Str. 135, 63067 Offenbach am Main, Germany

Abstract. An intense orographic precipitation event on 5 January 2013 is analyzed using a polarimetric C-band radar situated north of the Alps. The radar is operated at the meteorological observatory Hohenpeißenberg (MHP, 1006 m a.s.l. – above sea level) of the German Meteorological Service (DWD). The event lasted about 1.5 days and in total 44 mm precipitation was measured at Hohenpeißenberg. Detailed high resolution observation on the vertical structure of this event is obtained through a birdbath scan at 90° elevation which is part of the operational scanning. This scan is acquired every 5 min and provides meteorological profiles at high spatial resolution which are often not available in other radar networks. In the course of this event, the melting layer (ML) descends until the transition from rain into snow is observed at ground level. This transition from rain into snow is well documented by local weather observers and a present-weather sensor. The orographic precipitation event reveals mesoscale variability above the melting layer which can be attributed to a warm front. This variability manifests itself through substantially increased hydrometeor fall velocities. Radiosounding data indicate a layered structure in the thermodynamic field with increased moisture availability in relation to warm air advection. Rimed snowflakes and aggregation in a relatively warm environment lead to a signature in the radar data which is attributed to wet snow. The passage of the warm front leads to a substantial increase in rain rate at the surface. We use the newly implemented hydrometeor classification scheme "Hymec" to illustrate issues when relating radar products to local observations. For this, we employ data from the radar near Memmingen (MEM, 65 km west of MHP, 600 m a.s.l.) which is part of DWD's operational radar network. The detection, in location and timing, of the ML agrees well with the Hohenpeißenberg radar data. Considering the size of the Memmingen radar sensing volume, the detected hydrometeor (HM) types are consistent for measurements at or in a ML, even though surface observations indicate for example rain whereas the predominant HM is classified as wet snow. To better link the HM classification with the surface observation, either better thermodynamic input for Hymec or a statistical correction of the HM classification similar to a model output statistics (MOS) approach may be needed.