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Ralph Ferraro, Paul Pellegrino, Michael Turk, Wanchun Chen, Shuang Qiu, Robert Kuligowski, Sheldon Kusselson, Antonio Irving, Stan Kidder, and John Knaff

Abstract

Satellite analysts at the Satellite Services Division (SSD) of the National Environmental, Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) routinely generate 24-h rainfall potential for all tropical systems that are expected to make landfall within 24 to at most 36 h and are of tropical storm or greater strength (>65 km h−1). These estimates, known as the tropical rainfall potential (TRaP), are generated in an objective manner by taking instantaneous rainfall estimates from passive microwave sensors, advecting this rainfall pattern along the predicted storm track, and accumulating rainfall over the next 24 h.

In this study, the TRaPs generated by SSD during the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season have been validated using National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) stage IV hourly rainfall estimates. An objective validation package was used to generate common statistics such as correlation, bias, root-mean-square error, etc. It was found that by changing the minimum rain-rate threshold, the results could be drastically different. It was determined that a minimum threshold of 25.4 mm day−1 was appropriate for use with TRaP. By stratifying the data by different criteria, it was discovered that the TRaPs generated using Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) rain rates, with its optimal set of measurement frequencies, improved spatial resolution, and advanced retrieval algorithm, produced the best results. In addition, the best results were found for TRaPs generated for storms that were between 12 and 18 h from landfall. Since the TRaP is highly dependent on the forecast track of the storm, selected TRaPs were rerun using the observed track contained in the NOAA/Tropical Prediction Center (TPC) “best track.” Although some TRaPs were not significantly improved by using this best track, significant improvements were realized in some instances. Finally, as a benchmark for the usefulness of TRaP, comparisons were made to Eta Model 24-h precipitation forecasts as well as three climatological maximum rainfall methods. It was apparent that the satellite-based TRaP outperforms the Eta Model in virtually every statistical category, while the climatological methods produced maximum rainfall totals closer to the stage IV maximum amounts when compared with TRaP, although these methods are for storm totals while TRaP is for a 24-h period.

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Stanley Q. Kidder, John A. Knaff, Sheldon J. Kusselson, Michael Turk, Ralph R. Ferraro, and Robert J. Kuligowski

Abstract

Inland flooding caused by heavy rainfall from landfalling tropical cyclones is a significant threat to life and property. The tropical rainfall potential (TRaP) technique, which couples satellite estimates of rain rate in tropical cyclones with track forecasts to produce a forecast of 24-h rainfall from a storm, was developed to better estimate the magnitude of this threat. This paper outlines the history of the TRaP technique, details its current algorithms, and offers examples of its use in forecasting. Part II of this paper covers verification of the technique.

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