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Clement Guilloteau
,
Efi Foufoula-Georgiou
,
Pierre Kirstetter
,
Jackson Tan
, and
George J. Huffman

Abstract

Satellite precipitation products, as all quantitative estimates, come with some inherent degree of uncertainty. To associate a quantitative value of the uncertainty to each individual estimate, error modeling is necessary. Most of the error models proposed so far compute the uncertainty as a function of precipitation intensity only, and only at one specific spatiotemporal scale. We propose a spectral error model that accounts for the neighboring space–time dynamics of precipitation into the uncertainty quantification. Systematic distortions of the precipitation signal and random errors are characterized distinctively in every frequency–wavenumber band in the Fourier domain, to accurately characterize error across scales. The systematic distortions are represented as a deterministic space–time linear filtering term. The random errors are represented as a nonstationary additive noise. The spectral error model is applied to the IMERG multisatellite precipitation product, and its parameters are estimated empirically through a system identification approach using the GV-MRMS gauge–radar measurements as reference (“truth”) over the eastern United States. The filtering term is found to be essentially low-pass (attenuating the fine-scale variability). While traditional error models attribute most of the error variance to random errors, it is found here that the systematic filtering term explains 48% of the error variance at the native resolution of IMERG. This fact confirms that, at high resolution, filtering effects in satellite precipitation products cannot be ignored, and that the error cannot be represented as a purely random additive or multiplicative term. An important consequence is that precipitation estimates derived from different sources shall not be expected to automatically have statistically independent errors.

Significance Statement

Satellite precipitation products are nowadays widely used for climate and environmental research, water management, risk analysis, and decision support at the local, regional, and global scales. For all these applications, knowledge about the accuracy of the products is critical for their usability. However, products are not systematically provided with a quantitative measure of the uncertainty associated with each individual estimate. Various parametric error models have been proposed for uncertainty quantification, mostly assuming that the uncertainty is only a function of the precipitation intensity at the pixel and time of interest. By projecting satellite precipitation fields and their retrieval errors into the Fourier frequency–wavenumber domain, we show that we can explicitly take into account the neighboring space–time multiscale dynamics of precipitation and compute a scale-dependent uncertainty.

Open access
Clement Guilloteau
,
Efi Foufoula-Georgiou
,
Pierre Kirstetter
,
Jackson Tan
, and
George J. Huffman

Abstract

As more global satellite-derived precipitation products become available, it is imperative to evaluate them more carefully for providing guidance as to how well precipitation space–time features are captured for use in hydrologic modeling, climate studies, and other applications. Here we propose a space–time Fourier spectral analysis and define a suite of metrics that evaluate the spatial organization of storm systems, the propagation speed and direction of precipitation features, and the space–time scales at which a satellite product reproduces the variability of a reference “ground-truth” product (“effective resolution”). We demonstrate how the methodology relates to our physical intuition using the case study of a storm system with rich space–time structure. We then evaluate five high-resolution multisatellite products (CMORPH, GSMaP, IMERG-Early, IMERG-Final, and PERSIANN-CCS) over a period of 2 years over the southeastern United States. All five satellite products show generally consistent space–time power spectral density when compared to a reference ground gauge–radar dataset (GV-MRMS), revealing agreement in terms of average morphology and dynamics of precipitation systems. However, a deficit of spectral power at wavelengths shorter than 200 km and periods shorter than 4 h reveals that all satellite products are excessively “smooth.” The products also show low levels of spectral coherence with the gauge–radar reference at these fine scales, revealing discrepancies in capturing the location and timing of precipitation features. From the space–time spectral coherence, the IMERG-Final product shows superior ability in resolving the space–time dynamics of precipitation down to 200-km and 4-h scales compared to the other products.

Open access