Improved parameterization of ice particle size distributions using uncorrelated mass spectrum parameters: Results from GCPEx

Paloma Borque, Kirstin J. Harnos, Stephen W. Nesbitt, Greg M. McFarquhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Satellite retrieval algorithms and model microphysical parameterizations require guidance from observations to improve the representation of ice-phase microphysical quantities and processes. Here, a parameterization for ice-phase particle size distributions (PSDs) is developed using in situ measurements of cloud microphysical properties collected during the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Cold-Season Precipitation Experiment (GCPEx). This parameterization takes advantage of the relation between the gamma-shape parameter μ and the mass-weighted mean diameter Dm of the ice-phase PSD sampled during GCPEx. The retrieval of effective reflectivity Ze and ice water content (IWC) from the reconstructed PSD using the μ–Dm relationship was tested with independent measurements of Ze and IWC and overall leads to a mean error of 8% in both variables. This represents an improvement when compared with errors using the Field et al. parameterization of 10% in IWC and 37% in Ze. Current radar precipitation retrieval algorithms from GPM assume that the PSD follows a gamma distribution with μ = 3. This assumption leads to a mean overestimation of 5% in the retrieved Ze, whereas applying the μ–Dm relationship found here reduces this bias to an overestimation of less than 1%. Proper selection of the a and b coefficients in the mass–dimension relationship is also of crucial importance for retrievals. An inappropriate selection of a and b, even from values observed in previous studies in similar environments and cloud types, can lead to more than 100%bias in IWC and Ze for the ice-phase particles analyzed here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1657-1676
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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