Rainfall Modification by Major Urban Areas: Observations from Spaceborne Rain Radar on the TRMM Satellite

J. Marshall Shepherd Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Harold Pierce Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, and Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Andrew J. Negri Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Abstract

Data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite's precipitation radar (PR) were employed to identify warm-season rainfall (1998–2000) patterns around Atlanta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and San Antonio, Waco, and Dallas, Texas. Results reveal an average increase of about 28% in monthly rainfall rates within 30–60 km downwind of the metropolis, with a modest increase of 5.6% over the metropolis. Portions of the downwind area exhibit increases as high as 51%. The percentage changes are relative to an upwind control area. It was also found that maximum rainfall rates in the downwind impact area exceeded the mean value in the upwind control area by 48%–116%. The maximum value was generally found at an average distance of 39 km from the edge of the urban center or 64 km from the center of the city. Results are consistent with the Metropolitan Meteorological Experiment (METROMEX) studies of St. Louis, Missouri, almost two decades ago and with more recent studies near Atlanta. The study establishes the possibility of utilizing satellite-based rainfall estimates for examining rainfall modification by urban areas on global scales and over longer time periods. Such research has implications for weather forecasting, urban planning, water resource management, and understanding human impact on the environment and climate.

Corresponding author address: Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 912.0, Greenbelt, MD 20771. shepherd@agnes.gsfc.nasa.gov

Abstract

Data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite's precipitation radar (PR) were employed to identify warm-season rainfall (1998–2000) patterns around Atlanta, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and San Antonio, Waco, and Dallas, Texas. Results reveal an average increase of about 28% in monthly rainfall rates within 30–60 km downwind of the metropolis, with a modest increase of 5.6% over the metropolis. Portions of the downwind area exhibit increases as high as 51%. The percentage changes are relative to an upwind control area. It was also found that maximum rainfall rates in the downwind impact area exceeded the mean value in the upwind control area by 48%–116%. The maximum value was generally found at an average distance of 39 km from the edge of the urban center or 64 km from the center of the city. Results are consistent with the Metropolitan Meteorological Experiment (METROMEX) studies of St. Louis, Missouri, almost two decades ago and with more recent studies near Atlanta. The study establishes the possibility of utilizing satellite-based rainfall estimates for examining rainfall modification by urban areas on global scales and over longer time periods. Such research has implications for weather forecasting, urban planning, water resource management, and understanding human impact on the environment and climate.

Corresponding author address: Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 912.0, Greenbelt, MD 20771. shepherd@agnes.gsfc.nasa.gov

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