Melting Behavior of Rimed and Unrimed Snowflakes Investigated With Statistics of Triple-Frequency Doppler Radar Observations

Markus Karrer, José Dias Neto, Leonie von Terzi, Stefan Kneifel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Comparing the reflectivity flux at the top and bottom of the melting layer (ML) reveals the overall effect of the microphysical processes occurring within the ML on the particle population. If melting is the only process taking place and all particles scatter in the Rayleigh regime, the reflectivity flux increases in the ML by a constant factor given by the ratio of the dielectric factors. Deviations from this constant factor can indicate that either growth or shrinking processes (breakup, sublimation, and evaporation) dominate. However, inference of growth or shrinking dominance from the increase in reflectivity flux is only possible if other influences (e.g., vertical wind speed) are negligible or corrected. By analyzing radar Doppler spectra and multi-frequency observations, we correct the reflectivity fluxes for vertical wind and categorize the height profiles by the riming degree at the ML top. We apply this reflectivity flux ratio (ZFR) approach to a multi-month mid-latitude winter data set that contains mostly stratiform clouds. The profiles of radar variables in the ML are found to be surprisingly similar for both unrimed and rimed profiles with slight differences, for example, in the absolute values of the reflectivity flux. Statistical analysis of the ZFR suggests that either microphysical processes other than melting are not important or strongly compensate for each other. The results seem to confirm that at least for moderately precipitating stratiform clouds, the melting-only assumption applied in several retrievals and microphysical schemes is reasonable.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JD035907
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • melting layer
  • multi-frequency Doppler radar
  • precipitation
  • reflectivity flux ratio approach
  • remote sensing
  • riming


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