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The Lightning and Dual-Polarization Radar Characteristics of Three Hail-Accumulating Thunderstorms


Thunderstorms that produce hail accumulations at the surface can impact residents by obstructing roadways, closing airports, and causing localized flooding from hail-clogged drainages. These storms have recently gained an increased interest within the scientific community. However, differences that are observable in real-time between these storms and storms that produce non-impactful hail accumulations have yet to be documented. Similarly, the characteristics within a single storm that are useful to quantify or predict hail accumulations are not fully understood. This study uses lightning and dual-polarization radar data to characterize hail accumulations from three storms that occurred on the same day along the Colorado/Wyoming Front Range. Each storm’s characteristics are verified against radar-derived hail accumulation maps and in-situ observations. The storms differed in maximum accumulation, either producing 22 cm, 7 cm, or no accumulation. The magnitude of surface hail accumulations is found to be dependent on a combination of in-cloud hail production, storm translation speed, and hailstone melting. The optimal combination for substantial hail accumulations is enhanced in-cloud hail production, slow storm speed, and limited hailstone melting. However, during periods of similar in-cloud hail production, lesser accumulations are derived when storm speed and/or hailstone melting, identified by radar presentation, is sufficiently large. These results will aid forecasters in identifying when hail accumulations are occurring in real-time.

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