The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) constellation of spaceborne sensors provides a variety of direct and indirect measurements of precipitation processes. Such observations can be employed to derive spatially and temporally consistent gridded precipitation estimates either via data-driven retrieval algorithms or by assimilation into physically-based numerical weather models. We compare the data-driven Integrated Multi-satelliE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) and the assimilation-enabled NASA-Unified Weather Research and Forecasting (NU-WRF) model against Stage IV reference precipitation for four major extreme rainfall events in the southeastern United States using an object-based analysis framework that decomposes gridded precipitation fields into storm objects. As an alternative to conventional “grid-by-grid analysis,” the object-based approach provides a promising way to diagnose spatial properties of storms, trace them through space and time, and connect their accuracy to storm types and input data sources. The evolution of two tropical cyclones are generally captured by IMERG and NU-WRF, while the less organized spatial patterns of two mesoscale convective systems pose challenges for both. NU-WRF rain rates are generally more accurate, while IMERG better captures storm location and shape. Both show higher skill in detecting large, intense storms compared to smaller, weaker storms. IMERG’s accuracy depends on the input microwave and infrared data sources; NU-WRF does not appear to exhibit this dependence. Findings highlight that an object-oriented view can provide deeper insights into satellite precipitation performance and that the satellite precipitation community should further explore the potential for “hybrid” data-driven and physics-driven estimates in order to make optimal usage of satellite observations.

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