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Tristan S. L'Ecuyer, Christian Kummerow, and Wesley Berg


Variability in the global distribution of precipitation is recognized as a key element in assessing the impact of climate change for life on earth. The response of precipitation to climate forcings is, however, poorly understood because of discrepancies in the magnitude and sign of climatic trends in satellite-based rainfall estimates. Quantifying and ultimately removing these biases is critical for studying the response of the hydrologic cycle to climate change. In addition, estimates of random errors owing to variability in algorithm assumptions on local spatial and temporal scales are critical for establishing how strongly their products should be weighted in data assimilation or model validation applications and for assigning a level of confidence to climate trends diagnosed from the data.

This paper explores the potential for refining assumed drop size distributions (DSDs) in global radar rainfall algorithms by establishing a link between satellite observables and information gleaned from regional validation experiments where polarimetric radar, Doppler radar, and disdrometer measurements can be used to infer raindrop size distributions. By virtue of the limited information available in the satellite retrieval framework, the current method deviates from approaches adopted in the ground-based radar community that attempt to relate microphysical processes and resultant DSDs to local meteorological conditions. Instead, the technique exploits the fact that different microphysical pathways for rainfall production are likely to lead to differences in both the DSD of the resulting raindrops and the three-dimensional structure of associated radar reflectivity profiles. Objective rain-type classification based on the complete three-dimensional structure of observed reflectivity profiles is found to partially mitigate random and systematic errors in DSDs implied by differential reflectivity measurements. In particular, it is shown that vertical and horizontal reflectivity structure obtained from spaceborne radar can be used to reproduce significant differences in Z dr between the easterly and westerly climate regimes observed in the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Large-scale Biosphere–Atmosphere (TRMM-LBA) field experiment as well as the even larger differences between Amazonian rainfall and that observed in eastern Colorado. As such, the technique offers a potential methodology for placing locally observed DSD information into a global framework.

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Yalei You, Veljko Petkovic, Jackson Tan, Rachael Kroodsma, Wesley Berg, Chris Kidd, and Christa Peters-Lidard


This study assesses the level-2 precipitation estimates from 10 radiometers relative to Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Ku-band precipitation radar (KuPR) in two parts. First, nine sensors—four imagers [Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) and three Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounders (SSMISs)] and five sounders [Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) and four Microwave Humidity Sounders (MHSs)]—are evaluated over the 65°S–65°N region. Over ocean, imagers outperform sounders, primarily due to the usage of low-frequency channels. Furthermore, AMSR2 is clearly superior to SSMISs, likely due to the finer footprint size. Over land all sensors perform similarly except the noticeably worse performance from ATMS and SSMIS-F17. Second, we include the Sondeur Atmospherique du Profil d’Humidite Intertropicale par Radiometrie (SAPHIR) into the evaluation process, contrasting it against other sensors in the SAPHIR latitudes (30°S–30°N). SAPHIR has a slightly worse detection capability than other sounders over ocean but comparable detection performance to MHSs over land. The intensity estimates from SAPHIR show a larger normalized root-mean-square-error over both land and ocean, likely because only 183.3-GHz channels are available. Currently, imagers are preferred to sounders when level-2 estimates are incorporated into level-3 products. Our results suggest a sensor-specific priority order. Over ocean, this study indicates a priority order of AMSR2, SSMISs, MHSs and ATMS, and SAPHIR. Over land, SSMIS-F17, ATMS and SAPHIR should be given a lower priority than the other sensors.

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