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DLOC Principles of Meteorological Doppler Radar:
WSR-88D Fundamentals

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Beam Filling

Beam Filling and Reflectivity Differences

All things being equal, the signal return from a sample volume at a distant range will return less power than it would if it was located closer to the radar. The power density is lower at long ranges due to the increasing size of the pulse volume. The simplified radar equation, Equation (4), accounts

for this with the R2 term in the numerator, which acts to normalize the reflectivity (Z). This prevents weak storms close to the radar from appearing stronger than storms at great distances. However, this normalization of reflectivity values is only valid when the beam is completely filled with the corresponding drop-size distribution. This assumption seems reasonable for radar volumes at close range. At further ranges, when the radar volume is much wider, this assumption is less valid and may result in data quality impacts.

In Figure 4, two radars are sampling the core of a thunderstorm at different ranges. The drop-size distribution is such that the actual reflectivity is 60 dBZ. Notice that along the dotted line passing through both beams and the high reflectivity core, only "Beam B" is completely filled with 60 dBZ. Due to the longer range, "Beam A" is larger and, therefore, contains the 60 dBZ core plus weaker echoes surrounding it. The result is that there will be an averaging down of the 60 dBZ echo returns such that radar "A" will display a reflectivity value less than 60 dBZ at the range indicated by the dotted line. Lack of complete beam filling is oftentimes the reason why two radars will display different reflectivity values at the same altitude.

Figure 4.Two radars at different ranges sampling the same thunderstorm core.  Click for long description.

Figure 4: Example of beam filling differences. Radar beam "A" is wider along the dotted line than beam "B". The result is incomplete beam filling for beam "A" and reflectivity less than 60 dBZ being displayed. Beam"B" is completely filled and 60 dBZ will be displayed at the range indicated by the dotted line.

Non-Uniform Beam Filling Impacts on Dual-Polarization Radar Products

Beam filling differences can cause significant data quality issues to dual-polarization radar products, especially if there is a significant cross-beam gradient in precipitation type. If a strong enough gradient exists, especially if the gradient is from hail to rain, the resulting Correlation Coefficient data in down radial bins will be unreliable. This data quality issue, called non-uniform beam filling (or NBF), will be discussed in more detail later on in Topic 3.

Next Page: Practice Exercise #2
or continue on to:
Section 3: PRF, Rmax and Vmax