Articles | Volume 9, issue 7
Research article
20 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 20 Jul 2016

4-D-VAR assimilation of disdrometer data and radar spectral reflectivities for raindrop size distribution and vertical wind retrievals

François Mercier, Aymeric Chazottes, Laurent Barthès, and Cécile Mallet

Abstract. This paper presents a novel framework for retrieving the vertical raindrop size distribution (DSD) and vertical wind profiles during light rain events. This is also intended as a tool to better characterize rainfall microphysical processes. It consists in coupling K band Doppler spectra and ground disdrometer measurements (raindrop fluxes) in a 2-D numerical model propagating the DSD from the clouds to the ground level. The coupling is done via a 4-D-VAR data assimilation algorithm. As a first step, in this paper, the dynamical model and the geometry of the problem are quite simple. They do not allow the complexity implied by all rain microphysical processes to be encompassed (evaporation, coalescence breakup and horizontal air motion are not taken into account). In the end, the model is limited to the fall of droplets under gravity, modulated by the effects of vertical winds. The framework is thus illustrated with light, stratiform rain events.

We firstly use simulated data sets (data assimilation twin experiment) to show that the algorithm is able to retrieve the DSD profiles and vertical winds. It also demonstrates the ability of the algorithm to deal with the atmospheric turbulence (broadening of the Doppler spectra) and the instrumental noise. The method is then applied to a real case study which was conducted in the southwest of France during the autumn 2013. The data set collected during a long, quiet event (6 h duration, rain rate between 2 and 7 mm h−1) comes from an optical disdrometer and a 24 GHz vertically pointing Doppler radar. We show that the algorithm is able to reproduce the observations and retrieve realistic DSD and vertical wind profiles, when compared to what could be expected for such a rain event.

A goal for this study is to apply it to extended data sets for a validation with independent data, which could not be done with our limited 2013 data. Other data sets would also help to parameterize more processes needed in the model (evaporation, coalescence/breakup) to apply the algorithm to convective rain and to evaluate the adequacy of the model's parameterization.

Short summary
The aim of this study is to retrieve vertical profiles of raindrop size distributions and vertical winds from radar and ground measurements. This is crucial to understand the phenomena acting on the raindrops at small scale during their fall and then to be able to merge measurements of rain at different heights and scales (from radar, rain gauges, satellites etc.). It could also help to improve the treatment of radar data and to better parameterize rain in numerical weather prediction models.