A Regional Rainfall Climatology over Mexico and the Southwest United States Derived from Passive Microwave and Geosynchronous Infrared Data

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  • 1 Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • | 2 NOAA/ERL, National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 Science Systems and Applications. Inc., Lanham, Maryland
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Abstract

A three-year climatology of satellite-estimated rainfall for the warm season for the southwest United States and Mexico has been derived from data from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/1). The microwave data have been stratified by month (June, July, August), yew (1988, 1989, 1990), and time of day (morning and evening orbits). A rain algorithm was employed that relates 86-GHz brightness temperatures to rain rate using a coupled cloud-radiative transfer model.

Results identify an early evening maximum in rainfall along the western slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental during all three months. A prominent morning rainfall maximum was found off the western Mexican coast near Mazatlan in July and August. Substantial differences between morning and evening estimates were noted. To the extent that three years constitute a climatology, results of interannual variability are presented. Results are compared and contrasted to high-resolution (8 km, hourly) infrared cloud climatologies, which consist of the frequency of occurrence of cloud colder than −38°C and −58°C. This comparison has broad implications for the estimation of rainfall by simple (cloud threshold) techniques.

By sampling the infrared data to approximate the time and space resolution of the microwave, we produce ratios (or adjustment factors) by which we can adjust the infrared rain estimation schemes. This produces a combined micro wave/infrared rain algorithm for monthly rainfall. Using a limited set of raingage data as ground truth, an improvement (lower bias and root-mean-square error) was demonstrated by this combined technique when compared to either method alone. The diurnal variability of convection during July 1990 was examined using hourly rain estimates from the GOES precipitation index and the convective stratiform technique, revealing a maximum in estimated rainfall from 1800 to 2100 local time. It is in this time period when the SSM/1 evening orbit occurs. A high-resolution topographic database was available to aid in interpreting the influence of topography on the rainfall patterns.

Abstract

A three-year climatology of satellite-estimated rainfall for the warm season for the southwest United States and Mexico has been derived from data from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/1). The microwave data have been stratified by month (June, July, August), yew (1988, 1989, 1990), and time of day (morning and evening orbits). A rain algorithm was employed that relates 86-GHz brightness temperatures to rain rate using a coupled cloud-radiative transfer model.

Results identify an early evening maximum in rainfall along the western slope of the Sierra Madre Occidental during all three months. A prominent morning rainfall maximum was found off the western Mexican coast near Mazatlan in July and August. Substantial differences between morning and evening estimates were noted. To the extent that three years constitute a climatology, results of interannual variability are presented. Results are compared and contrasted to high-resolution (8 km, hourly) infrared cloud climatologies, which consist of the frequency of occurrence of cloud colder than −38°C and −58°C. This comparison has broad implications for the estimation of rainfall by simple (cloud threshold) techniques.

By sampling the infrared data to approximate the time and space resolution of the microwave, we produce ratios (or adjustment factors) by which we can adjust the infrared rain estimation schemes. This produces a combined micro wave/infrared rain algorithm for monthly rainfall. Using a limited set of raingage data as ground truth, an improvement (lower bias and root-mean-square error) was demonstrated by this combined technique when compared to either method alone. The diurnal variability of convection during July 1990 was examined using hourly rain estimates from the GOES precipitation index and the convective stratiform technique, revealing a maximum in estimated rainfall from 1800 to 2100 local time. It is in this time period when the SSM/1 evening orbit occurs. A high-resolution topographic database was available to aid in interpreting the influence of topography on the rainfall patterns.

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