Summary of the High Ice Water Content (HIWC) RADAR Flight Campaigns



International Conference on Icing of Aircraft, Engines, and Structures
Authors Abstract
NASA and the FAA conducted two flight campaigns to quantify onboard weather radar measurements with in-situ measurements of high concentrations of ice crystals found in deep convective storms. The ultimate goal of this research was to improve the understanding of high ice water content (HIWC) and develop onboard weather radar processing techniques to detect regions of HIWC ahead of an aircraft to enable tactical avoidance of the potentially hazardous conditions. Both HIWC RADAR campaigns utilized the NASA DC-8 Airborne Science Laboratory equipped with a Honeywell RDR-4000 weather radar and in-situ microphysical instruments to characterize the ice crystal clouds. The purpose of this paper is to summarize how these campaigns were conducted and highlight key results.
The first campaign was conducted in August 2015 with a base of operations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Ten research flights were made into deep convective systems that included Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS) near the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, and Tropical Storms Danny and Erika near the Caribbean Sea. The radar and in-situ measurements from these ten flights were analyzed and correlations defined. Key results included 1) derived relationships between radar reflectivity factor (RRF), Ice Water Content (IWC), and ice particle size distributions, 2) characterization of HIWC conditions at the -50°C and other flight levels, and 3) verification of pilot observations, such as low radar reflectivity factor and pitot and total air temperature (TAT) anomalies. This data set also enabled new pilot radar HIWC detection algorithms to be developed and tested.
A second campaign was conducted in August 2018 to test proposed HIWC radar detection algorithms within a new set of storm systems. Seven research flights were conducted from bases of operations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Palmdale, California; and Kona, Hawaii. Flights were made into convective systems over the Gulf of Mexico and into an eastern-Pacific tropical system that developed into Hurricane Lane. Using a new, NASA-developed radar processing technique called “Swerling”, regions of HIWC were identified, and estimates of IWC were produced, at distances up to 60 Nm ahead of the NASA DC-8. Subsequently, the DC-8 flew through these regions to acquire the in-situ measurements to verify the radar-based IWC estimates.
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Ratvasky, T., Harrah, S., Strapp, J., Lilie, L. et al., "Summary of the High Ice Water Content (HIWC) RADAR Flight Campaigns," SAE Technical Paper 2019-01-2027, 2019,
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Jun 10, 2019
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Technical Paper