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CHAT – the Colorado Hail Accumulation from Thunderstorms project

Abstract

The CHAT project aims to collect hail accumulation reports and study the behavior of hail-producing thunderstorms with dual-polarization weather radars and a lightning mapping array.

In recent years, hail accumulations from thunderstorms have occurred frequently enough to catch the attention of the National Weather Service, the general public, and news agencies. Despite the extreme nature of these thunderstorms, no mechanism is currently in place to obtain adequate reports, measurements, or forecasts of accumulated hail depth. To better identify and forecast hail accumulations, the Colorado Hail Accumulation from Thunderstorms (CHAT) project has been initiated in 2016 with the goals of collecting improved and more frequent hail depth reports on the ground as well as studying characteristics of storms that produce hail accumulations in Colorado. A desired outcome of this research is to identify predictors for hail-producing thunderstorms typically occurring along the Colorado Front Range that might be used as operational nowcast products in the future. During the 2016 convective season, we asked amateur meteorologists to send general information, photos, and videos on hail depth using social media. They submitted over 58 reports in Colorado with information on location, time, depth, and areal coverage of hail accumulations. We have analyzed dual-polarization radar and lightning mapping array data from 32 thunderstorms in Colorado, which produced between 0.5 - 50 cm of hail accumulation on the ground, to identify characteristics unique to storms with hail accumulations. This preliminary analysis shows how enhanced in-cloud hail presence and surface accumulation can be tracked throughout the lifetime of a thunderstorm using dual-polarization radar and lightning data, and how hail accumulation events are associated with large in-cloud ice water content, long hailfall duration, or a combination of these.

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