Observations of precipitation size and fall speed characteristics within coexisting rain and wet snow

AMS Citation:
Yuter, S. E., D. E. Kingsmill, L. B. Nance, and M. Loffler-mang, 2006: Observations of precipitation size and fall speed characteristics within coexisting rain and wet snow. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 45, 1450-1464, doi:10.1175/JAM2406.1.
Resource Type:article
Title:Observations of precipitation size and fall speed characteristics within coexisting rain and wet snow
Abstract: Ground-based measurements of particle size and fall speed distributions using a Particle Size and Velocity (PARSIVEL) disdrometer are compared among samples obtained in mixed precipitation ( rain and wet snow) and rain in the Oregon Cascade Mountains and in dry snow in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Coexisting rain and snow particles are distinguished using a classification method based on their size and fall speed properties. The bimodal distribution of the particles' joint fall speed - size characteristics at air temperatures from 0.5 degrees to 0 degrees C suggests that wet-snow particles quickly make a transition to rain once melting has progressed sufficiently. As air temperatures increase to 1.5 degrees C, the reduction in the number of very large aggregates with a diameter > 10 mm coincides with the appearance of rain particles larger than 6 mm. In this setting, very large raindrops appear to be the result of aggregrates melting with minimal breakup rather than formation by coalescence. In contrast to dry snow and rain, the fall speed for wet snow has a much weaker correlation between increasing size and increasing fall speed. Wet snow has a larger standard deviation of fall speed (120% - 230% relative to dry snow) for a given particle size. The average fall speed for observed wet-snow particles with a diameter >= 2.4 mm is 2 m s(-1) with a standard deviation of 0.8 m s(-1). The large standard deviation is likely related to the coexistence of particles of similar physical size with different percentages of melting. These results suggest that different particle sizes are not required for aggregation since wet-snow particles of the same size can have different fall speeds. Given the large standard deviation of fall speeds in wet snow, the collision efficiency for wet snow is likely larger than that of dry snow. For particle sizes between 1 and 10 mm in diameter within mixed precipitation, rain constituted 1% of the particles by volume within the isothermal layer at 0 degrees C and 4% of the particles by volume for the region just below the isothermal layer where air temperatures rise from 0 degrees to 0.5 degrees C. As air temperatures increased above 0.5 degrees C, the relative proportions of rain versus snow particles shift dramatically and raindrops become dominant. The value of 0.5 degrees C for the sharp transition in volume fraction from snow to rain is slightly lower than the range from 1.1 degrees to 1.7 degrees C often used in hydrological models.
Peer Review:Refereed
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OpenSky citable URL: ark:/85065/d7zk5hfm
Publisher's Version: 10.1175/JAM2406.1
  • S. Yuter
  • D. Kingsmill
  • Louisa Nance - NCAR/UCAR
  • M. Loffler-mang
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