Investigation of Discrepancies in Satellite Rainfall Estimates over Ethiopia

Matthew P. Young Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Charles J. R. Williams Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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J. Christine Chiu Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Ross I. Maidment Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom

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Shu-Hua Chen Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis, Davis, California

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Abstract

Tropical Applications of Meteorology Using Satellite and Ground-Based Observations (TAMSAT) rainfall estimates are used extensively across Africa for operational rainfall monitoring and food security applications; thus, regional evaluations of TAMSAT are essential to ensure its reliability. This study assesses the performance of TAMSAT rainfall estimates, along with the African Rainfall Climatology (ARC), version 2; the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 product; and the Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH), against a dense rain gauge network over a mountainous region of Ethiopia. Overall, TAMSAT exhibits good skill in detecting rainy events but underestimates rainfall amount, while ARC underestimates both rainfall amount and rainy event frequency. Meanwhile, TRMM consistently performs best in detecting rainy events and capturing the mean rainfall and seasonal variability, while CMORPH tends to overdetect rainy events. Moreover, the mean difference in daily rainfall between the products and rain gauges shows increasing underestimation with increasing elevation. However, the distribution in satellite–gauge differences demonstrates that although 75% of retrievals underestimate rainfall, up to 25% overestimate rainfall over all elevations. Case studies using high-resolution simulations suggest underestimation in the satellite algorithms is likely due to shallow convection with warm cloud-top temperatures in addition to beam-filling effects in microwave-based retrievals from localized convective cells. The overestimation by IR-based algorithms is attributed to nonraining cirrus with cold cloud-top temperatures. These results stress the importance of understanding regional precipitation systems causing uncertainties in satellite rainfall estimates with a view toward using this knowledge to improve rainfall algorithms.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Young, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, P.O. Box 243, Reading, RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. E-mail: m.young@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Abstract

Tropical Applications of Meteorology Using Satellite and Ground-Based Observations (TAMSAT) rainfall estimates are used extensively across Africa for operational rainfall monitoring and food security applications; thus, regional evaluations of TAMSAT are essential to ensure its reliability. This study assesses the performance of TAMSAT rainfall estimates, along with the African Rainfall Climatology (ARC), version 2; the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 product; and the Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH), against a dense rain gauge network over a mountainous region of Ethiopia. Overall, TAMSAT exhibits good skill in detecting rainy events but underestimates rainfall amount, while ARC underestimates both rainfall amount and rainy event frequency. Meanwhile, TRMM consistently performs best in detecting rainy events and capturing the mean rainfall and seasonal variability, while CMORPH tends to overdetect rainy events. Moreover, the mean difference in daily rainfall between the products and rain gauges shows increasing underestimation with increasing elevation. However, the distribution in satellite–gauge differences demonstrates that although 75% of retrievals underestimate rainfall, up to 25% overestimate rainfall over all elevations. Case studies using high-resolution simulations suggest underestimation in the satellite algorithms is likely due to shallow convection with warm cloud-top temperatures in addition to beam-filling effects in microwave-based retrievals from localized convective cells. The overestimation by IR-based algorithms is attributed to nonraining cirrus with cold cloud-top temperatures. These results stress the importance of understanding regional precipitation systems causing uncertainties in satellite rainfall estimates with a view toward using this knowledge to improve rainfall algorithms.

Corresponding author address: Matthew Young, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, P.O. Box 243, Reading, RG6 6BB, United Kingdom. E-mail: m.young@pgr.reading.ac.uk
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