On the Radar Detection of Cloud Seeding Effects in Wintertime Orographic Cloud Systems

Troy J. Zaremba, Robert M. Rauber, Larry Di Girolamo, Jesse R. Loveridge, Greg M. McFarquhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies from the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE) demonstrated definitive radar evidence of seeding signatures in winter orographic clouds during three inten-sive operation periods (IOPs) where the background signal from natural precipitation was weak and a radar signal attribut-able to seeding could be identified as traceable seeding lines. Except for the three IOPs where seeding was detected, background natural snowfall was present during seeding operations and no clear seeding signatures were detected. This paper provides a quantitative analysis to assess if orographic cloud seeding effects are detectable using radar when background precipitation is present. We show that a 5-dB change in equivalent reflectivity factor Ze is required to stand out against background natural Ze variability. This analysis considers four radar wavelengths, a range of background ice water contents (IWC) from 0.012 to 1.214 g m23, and additional IWC introduced by seeding ranging from 0.012 to 0.486 g m23. The upper-limit values of seeded IWC are based on measurements of IWC from the Nevzorov probe employed on the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft during SNOWIE. This analysis implies that seeding effects will be undetectable using radar within background snowfall unless the background IWC is small, and the seeding effects are large. It therefore remains uncertain whether seeding had no effect on cloud microstructure, and therefore produced no signature on radar, or whether seeding did have an effect, but that effect was undetectable against the background reflectivity associated with naturally produced precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-45
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Cloud microphysics
  • Radars/radar observations
  • Weather modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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