Weather types affect rain microstructure: Implications for estimating rain rate

Wael Ghada, Joan Bech, Nicole Estrella, Andreas Hamann, Annette Menzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) through remote sensing has to take rain microstructure into consideration, because it influences the relationship between radar reflectivity Z and rain intensity R. For this reason, separate equations are used to estimate rain intensity of convective and stratiform rain types. Here, we investigate whether incorporating synoptic scale meteorology could yield further QPE improvements. Depending on large-scale weather types, variability in cloud condensation nuclei and the humidity content may lead to variation in rain microstructure. In a case study for Bavaria, we measured rain microstructure at ten locations with laser-based disdrometers, covering a combined 18,600 h of rain in a period of 36 months. Rain was classified on a temporal scale of one minute into convective and stratiform based on a machine learning model. Large-scale wind direction classes were on a daily scale to represent the synoptic weather types. Significant variations in rain microstructure parameters were evident not only for rain types, but also for wind direction classes. The main contrast was observed between westerly and easterly circulations, with the latter characterized by smaller average size of drops and a higher average concentration. This led to substantial variation in the parameters of the radar rain intensity retrieval equation Z–R. The effect of wind direction on Z–R parameters was more pronounced for stratiform than convective rain types. We conclude that building separate Z–R retrieval equations for regional wind direction classes should improve radar-based QPE, especially for stratiform rain events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3572
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Convective
  • Disdrometer
  • Radar reflectivity–rain rate relationship
  • Rain spectra
  • Stratiform
  • Thies
  • Weather circulations


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