Colorado State University Tropical Weather and Climate Research



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A Comparison of the Polarimetric Radar Characteristics of Heavy Rainfall From Hurricanes Harvey (2017) and Florence (2018)


Group Members: Jennifer C. DeHart , Michael M. Bell

Polarimetric coastal radar data are used to compare the rainfall characteristics of Hurricanes Harvey (2017) and Florence (2018). Intense rainfall was an infrequent yet important contributor to the total rainfall in Harvey, but its relative contribution varied spatially. The total rainfall over land maximized near the coast over Beaumont, TX due to intense convection resulting from prolonged onshore flow downshear from the circulation center. Overall, polarimetric radar observations in Harvey show a dominance of high concentrations of small-to-medium drops, consistent with prior tropical cyclone studies. The microphysical characteristics were spatially and temporally inhomogeneous however, with larger drops more frequent on 27 August and higher number concentrations more frequent on 28 and 30 August. The polarimetric variables and raindrop characteristics observed during Florence share broad similarities to Harvey, but had reduced variability, fewer observations of stronger reflectivity and differential reflectivity, and a lower frequency of high number concentrations and medium-sized drops. The radar data indicate Florence had reduced coverage of stronger convection compared to Harvey. We hypothesize that differences in storm motion, intensity decay rates, and vertical wind shear produce the distinct precipitation structures and microphysical differences seen in Harvey and Florence.