A comparative study of rainfall retrievals based on specific differential phase shifts at X- and S-band radar frequencies

Sergey Y. Matrosov, Robert Cifelli, Patrick C. Kennedy, Steven W. Nesbitt, Steven A. Rutledge, V. N. Bringi, Brooks E. Martner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A comparative study of the use of X- and S-band polarimetric radars for rainfall parameter retrievals is presented. The main advantage of X-band polarimetric measurements is the availability of reliable specific differential phase shift estimates, KDP, for lighter rainfalls when phase measurements at the S band are too noisy to produce usable KDP. Theoretical modeling with experimental raindrop size distributions indicates that due to some non-Rayleigh resonant effects, KDP values at a 3.2-cm wavelength (X band) are on average a factor of 3.7 greater than at 11 cm (S band), which is a somewhat larger difference than simple frequency scaling predicts. The non-Rayleigh effects also cause X-band horizontal polarization reflectivity, Zeh, and differential reflectivity, ZDR, to be larger than those at the S band. The differences between X- and S-band reflectivities can exceed measurement uncertainties for Zeh starting approximately at Zeh > 40 dBZ, and for ZDR when the mass-weighted drop diameter, Dm, exceeds about 2 mm. Simultaneous X- and S-band radar measurements of rainfall showed that consistent KDP estimates exceeding about 0.1° km-1 began to be possible at reflectivities greater than ∼26-30 dBZ while at the S band such estimates can generally be made if Zeh > ∼35-39 dBZ. Experimental radar data taken in light-to-moderate stratiform rainfalls with rain rates R in an interval from 2.5 to 15 mm h-1 showed availability of the KDP-based estimates of R for most of the data points at the X band while at the S band such estimates were available only for R greater than about 8-10 mm h-1. After correcting X-band differential reflectivity measurements for differential attenuation, ZDR measurements at both radar frequency bands were in good agreement with each other for Dm < 2 mm, which approximately corresponds to ZDR ≈ 1.6 dB. The ZDR-based retrievals of characteristic raindrop sizes also agreed well with in situ disdrometer measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)952-963
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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