An integrated approach to monitoring the calibration stability of operational dual-polarization radars
Abstract. The stability of weather radar calibration is a mandatory aspect for quantitative applications, such as rainfall estimation, short-term weather prediction and initialization of numerical atmospheric and hydrological models. Over the years, calibration monitoring techniques based on external sources have been developed, specifically calibration using the Sun and calibration based on ground clutter returns. In this paper, these two techniques are integrated and complemented with a self-consistency procedure and an intercalibration technique. The aim of the integrated approach is to implement a robust method for online monitoring, able to detect significant changes in the radar calibration. The physical consistency of polarimetric radar observables is exploited using the self-consistency approach, based on the expected correspondence between dual-polarization power and phase measurements in rain. This technique allows a reference absolute value to be provided for the radar calibration, from which eventual deviations may be detected using the other procedures. In particular, the ground clutter calibration is implemented on both polarization channels (horizontal and vertical) for each radar scan, allowing the polarimetric variables to be monitored and hardware failures to promptly be recognized. The Sun calibration allows monitoring the calibration and sensitivity of the radar receiver, in addition to the antenna pointing accuracy. It is applied using observations collected during the standard operational scans but requires long integration times (several days) in order to accumulate a sufficient amount of useful data. Finally, an intercalibration technique is developed and performed to compare colocated measurements collected in rain by two radars in overlapping regions. The integrated approach is performed on the C-band weather radar network in northwestern Italy, during July–October 2014. The set of methods considered appears suitable to establish an online tool to monitor the stability of the radar calibration with an accuracy of about 2 dB. This is considered adequate to automatically detect any unexpected change in the radar system requiring further data analysis or on-site measurements.