Uncertainty Analysis for CloudSat Snowfall Retrievals

Hiley, M. J., M. S. Kulie, and R. Bennartz (2011), Uncertainty Analysis for CloudSat Snowfall Retrievals, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 50, 399-418, doi:10.1175/2010JAMC2505.1.

A new method to derive radar reflectivity–snow rate (Ze–S) relationships from scattering properties of different ice particle models is presented. Three statistical Ze–i relationships are derived to characterize the best estimate and uncertainties due to ice habit. The derived relationships are applied to CloudSat data to derive near-surface snowfall retrievals. Other uncertainties due to various method choices, such as vertical continuity tests, the near-surface reflectivity threshold used for choosing snowfall cases, and correcting for attenuation, are also explored on a regional and zonally averaged basis. The vertical continuity test in particular is found to have interesting regional effects. Although it appears to be useful for eliminating ground clutter over land, it also masks out potential lake-effect-snowfall cases over the Southern Ocean storm-track region. The choice of reflectivity threshold is found to significantly affect snowfall detection but is insignificant in terms of the mean snowfall rate. The use of an attenuation correction scheme can increase mean snowfall rates by ;20%–30% in some regions. The CloudSat-collocated Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR)-derived liquid water path is also analyzed, and significant amounts of cloud liquid water are often present in snowfall cases in which surface temperature is below freezing, illustrating the need to improve the arbitrary model-derived surface temperature criterion used to select ‘‘dry’’ snowfall cases. Precipitation measurements from conventional surface weather stations across Canada are used in an initial attempt to evaluate CloudSat snowfall retrievals. As expected, evaluation with ground-based data is fraught with difficulties. Encouraging results are found at a few stations, however—in particular, those located at very high latitudes.

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