An Overview of Using Weather Radar for Climatological Studies: Successes, Challenges, and Potential

Saltikoff, Elena ; Friedrich, Katja ; Soderholm, Joshua ; Lengfeld, Katharina ; Nelson, Brian ; Becker, Andreas ; Hollmann, Rainer ; Urban, Bernard ; Heistermann, Maik ; Tassone, Caterina

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Weather radars have been widely used to detect and quantify precipitation and nowcast severe weather for more than 50 years. Operational weather radars generate huge three-dimensional datasets that can accumulate to terabytes per day. So it is essential to review what can be done with existing vast amounts of data, and how we should manage the present datasets for the future climatologists. All weather radars provide the reflectivity factor, and this is the main parameter to be archived. Saving reflectivity as volumetric data in the original spherical coordinates allows for studies of the three-dimensional structure of precipitation, which can be applied to understand a number of processes, for example, analyzing hail or thunderstorm modes. Doppler velocity and polarimetric moments also have numerous applications for climate studies, for example, quality improvement of reflectivity and rain rate retrievals, and for interrogating microphysical and dynamical processes. However, observational data alone are not useful if they are not accompanied by sufficient metadata. Since the lifetime of a radar ranges between 10 and 20 years, instruments are typically replaced or upgraded during climatologically relevant time periods. As a result, present metadata often do not apply to past data. This paper outlines the work of the Radar Task Team set by the Atmospheric Observation Panel for Climate (AOPC) and summarizes results from a recent survey on the existence and availability of long time series. We also provide recommendations for archiving current and future data and examples of climatological studies in which radar data have already been used.</p>

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