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Microwave Passive Ground-Based Retrievals of Cloud and Rain Liquid Water Path in Drizzling Clouds: Challenges and Possibilities


Satellite and ground-based microwave radiometers are routinely used for the retrieval of liquid water path (LWP) under all atmospheric conditions. The retrieval of water vapor and LWP from ground-based radiometers during rain has proved to be a difficult challenge for two principal reasons: the inadequacy of the nonscattering approximation in precipitating clouds and the deposition of rain drops on the instrument's radome. In this paper, we combine model computations and real ground-based, zenith-viewing passive microwave radiometer brightness temperature measurements to investigate how total, cloud, and rain LWP retrievals are affected by assumptions on the cloud drop size distribution (DSD) and under which conditions a nonscattering approximation can be considered reasonably accurate. Results show that until the drop effective diameter is larger than ~200 μm, a nonscattering approximation yields results that are still accurate at frequencies less than 90 GHz. For larger drop sizes, it is shown that higher microwave frequencies contain useful information that can be used to separate cloud and rain LWP provided that the vertical distribution of hydrometeors, as well as the DSD, is reasonably known. The choice of the DSD parameters becomes important to ensure retrievals that are consistent with the measurements. A physical retrieval is tested on a synthetic data set and is then used to retrieve total, cloud, and rain LWP from radiometric measurements during two drizzling cases at the atmospheric radiation measurement Eastern North Atlantic site.

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