Skip to Main Content
Attenuation of radar signals by melting hydrometeors is studied using modeling approaches and comparisons of simulated and observed results. In spite that the melting layer in precipitating systems is usually relatively thin ( ~ 500 m), this attenuation can be substantial at X-band frequencies for low elevation angles and at millimeter-wavelength frequencies that are used by the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program and CloudSat radars operating at vertical/nadir incidence. Melting layer attenuation is stronger than the attenuation in the resultant rain at comparable path lengths and needs to be accounted for in remote sensing methods that use radar reflectivity measurements for retrieving cloud and precipitation parameters if the radar beam penetrates this layer. The choice of the mixing rule for calculating dielectric constants of melting hydrometeors determines, to a significant degree, the magnitude of the modeled attenuation values. A relatively simple Wiener mixing rule provides results that are consistent with melting layer reflectivity enhancements and attenuation estimates from the X-band radar observations. The total melting layer attenuation A is related to the resultant rain rate R in an approximately linear manner at X- and Kalpha-band frequencies, whereas at W-band, the melting layer attenuation increase with rain rate is slower due to strong non-Rayleigh scattering effects. Typical A-R relations are suggested, and the variability of these relations is discussed. This paper is mostly concerned with precipitating systems associated with snowflakes that are unrimed or only slightly rimed above the freezing level, as indicated by relatively low values of vertical Doppler velocities.