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An accurate and computationally cheap microwave scattering method for ice aggregates: the Independent Monomer Approximation

McCusker, K. ORCID:, Westbrook, C. D. ORCID: and Tyynelä, J. (2021) An accurate and computationally cheap microwave scattering method for ice aggregates: the Independent Monomer Approximation. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 147 (735). pp. 1202-1224. ISSN 1477-870X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/qj.3967


The Discrete Dipole Approximation (DDA) is widely used to simulate scattering of microwaves by snowflakes, by discretising the snowflake into small “dipoles” which oscillate in response to (i) the incident wave and (ii) scattered waves from all the other dipoles in the particle. It is this coupling between all dipole pairs which makes solving the DDA system computationally expensive, and that cost grows non‐linearly as the number of crystals n within an aggregate is increased. Motivated by this, many studies have ignored the dipole coupling (the Rayleigh‐Gans Approximation, RGA). However, use of RGA leads to systematic underestimation of both scattering and absorption, and an inability to predict polarimetric properties. To address this, we present a new approach (the Independent Monomer Approximation, IMA) which solves the DDA system for each crystal “monomer” separately, then combines them to construct the full solution. By including intra‐monomer coupling, but neglecting inter‐monomer coupling, we save a factor of n in computation time over DDA. Benchmarking IMA against DDA solutions indicates that its accuracy is greatly superior to RGA, and provides ensemble scattering cross sections which closely agree with their more expensive DDA counterparts, particularly at size parameters smaller than ∼5. Addition of rime to the aggregates does not significantly degrade the results, despite the increased density. The use of IMA for radar remote sensing is evaluated, and we show that multi‐wavelength and multi‐polarisation parameters are successfully captured to within a few tenths of a dB for aggregates probed with frequencies between 3 and 200GHz, in contrast to RGA where errors of up to 2.5dB are observed. Finally we explore the realism of the IMA solutions in greater detail by analysing internal electric fields, and discuss some broader insights that IMA provides into the physical features of aggregates that are important for microwave scattering.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:95277
Publisher:Royal Meteorological Society


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