Articles | Volume 8, issue 11
Research article
06 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 06 Nov 2015

Characterization of Mediterranean hail-bearing storms using an operational polarimetric X-band radar

G. Vulpiani, L. Baldini, and N. Roberto

Abstract. This work documents the effective use of X-band radar observations for monitoring severe storms in an operational framework. Two severe hail-bearing Mediterranean storms that occurred in 2013 in southern Italy, flooding two important Sicilian cities, are described in terms of their polarimetric radar signatures and retrieved rainfall fields. The X-band dual-polarization radar operating inside the Catania airport (Sicily, Italy), managed by the Italian Department of Civil Protection, is considered here. A suitable processing is applied to X-band radar measurements. The crucial procedural step relies on the differential phase processing, being preparatory for attenuation correction and rainfall estimation. It is based on an iterative approach that uses a very short-length (1 km) moving window, allowing proper capture of the observed high radial gradients of the differential phase. The parameterization of the attenuation correction algorithm, which uses the reconstructed differential phase shift, is derived from electromagnetic simulations based on 3 years of drop size distribution (DSD) observations collected in Rome (Italy). A fuzzy logic hydrometeor classification algorithm was also adopted to support the analysis of the storm characteristics. The precipitation field amounts were reconstructed using a combined polarimetric rainfall algorithm based on reflectivity and specific differential phase. The first storm was observed on 21 February when a winter convective system that originated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, marginally hit the central-eastern coastline of Sicily, causing a flash flood in Catania. Due to an optimal location (the system is located a few kilometers from the city center), it was possible to retrieve the storm characteristics fairly well, including the amount of rainfall field at the ground. Extemporaneous signal extinction, caused by close-range hail core causing significant differential phase shift in a very short-range path, is documented. The second storm, on 21 August 2013, was a summer mesoscale convective system that originated from a Mediterranean low pressure system lasting a few hours that eventually flooded the city of Syracuse. The undergoing physical process, including the storm dynamics, is inferred by analyzing the vertical sections of the polarimetric radar measurements. The high registered amount of precipitation was fairly well reconstructed, although with a trend toward underestimation at increasing distances. Several episodes of signal extinction were clearly manifested during the mature stage of the observed supercells.

Short summary
This work shows the effective monitoring of intense precipitation events in the Mediterranean area by an operational X-band dual-polarization radar operated in south Italy by the Department of Civil Protection. Two severe hail-bearing storms, causing high attenuation, have been described in terms of the polarimetric radar signatures and estimated rainfall fields. The comparative analysis of the radar observations enabled the triggering hail formation and precipitation process to be inferred.