Radar and Rain Gauge Analysis of the Extreme Rainfall during Hurricane Danny’s (1997) Landfall

Medlin, Jeffrey M.; Kimball, Sytske K.; Blackwell, Keith G.
May 2007
Monthly Weather Review;May2007, Vol. 135 Issue 5, p1869
Academic Journal
As a minimal hurricane, Danny moved over Mobile Bay around 0900 UTC 19 July 1997 and became stationary by midmorning, while situated within a synoptic col. Danny then evolved into an asymmetric storm with an intensely convective rainband that produced torrential rainfall through 1200 UTC 20 July 1997. Danny’s center remained <100 km from the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) in Mobile, Alabama, for over 48 h, allowing long-term surveillance of the storm’s inner core. This event marked the first time the tropical Z–R relationship was employed on an operational WSR-88D system during tropical cyclone landfall. A radar-estimated maximum rainfall accumulation of 1097 mm (43.2 in.) was analyzed over southwestern Mobile Bay. A NWS cooperative rain gauge located on Dauphin Island, Alabama, measured 896 mm (35.28 in.). An adjacent standard rain gauge measured the highest rainfall amount of 932 mm (36.71 in.). This paper investigates the spatial and temporal distribution and potential magnitude of Danny’s torrential rainfall episode over coastal Alabama. It is shown that both gauges and radar seriously underestimated event rainfall. An estimate is given for what could have been the true event rainfall amount. In the case of the radar, the WSR-88D Algorithm Testing and Display System is used to obtain a better estimate of rainfall using higher dBZ caps than the operational 50 dBZ. In the case of the tipping-bucket rain gauge, wind and mechanical error estimates were applied in order to quantify rainfall underestimation.


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