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Thomas L. Bell, Prasun K. Kundu, and Christian D. Kummerow

Abstract

Quantitative use of satellite-derived maps of monthly rainfall requires some measure of the accuracy of the satellite estimates. The rainfall estimate for a given map grid box is subject to both remote sensing error and, especially in the case of low-orbiting satellites, sampling error due to the limited number of observations of the grid box provided by the satellite. A simple model of rain behavior predicts that rms random error in grid-box averages should depend in a simple way on the local average rain rate, and the predicted behavior has been seen in simulations using surface rain gauge and radar data. This relationship is examined using Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) satellite data obtained over the western equatorial Pacific during the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment. Rms error inferred directly from SSM/I rainfall estimates is found to be larger than was predicted from surface data and to depend less on local rain rate than was predicted. Preliminary examination of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) microwave estimates shows better agreement with surface data. A simple method of estimating rms error in satellite rainfall estimates is suggested, based on quantities that can be computed directly from the satellite data.

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Janice L. Bytheway, Christian D. Kummerow, and Curtis Alexander

Abstract

The High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model has been the National Weather Service’s (NWS) operational rapid update model since 2014. The HRRR has undergone continual development, including updates to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model core, the data assimilation system, and the various physics packages in order to better represent atmospheric processes, with updated operational versions of the model being implemented approximately every spring. Given the model’s intent for use in convective precipitation forecasting, it is of interest to examine how forecasts of warm season precipitation have changed as a result of the continued model upgrades. A features-based assessment is performed on the first 6 h of HRRR quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 versions of the model over the U.S. central plains in an effort to understand how specific aspects of QPF performance have evolved as a result of continued model development. Significant bias changes were found with respect to precipitation intensity. Model upgrades that increased boundary layer stability and reduced the strength of the latent heating perturbations in the data assimilation were found to reduce southward biases in convective initiation, reduce the tendency for the model to overestimate heavy rainfall, and improve the representation of convective initiation.

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Paula J. Brown, Christian D. Kummerow, and David L. Randel

Abstract

The Goddard profiling algorithm (GPROF) is an operational passive microwave retrieval that uses a Bayesian scheme to estimate rainfall. GPROF 2014 retrieves rainfall and hydrometeor vertical profile information based upon a database of profiles constructed to be simultaneously consistent with Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) and TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) observations. A small number of tropical cyclones are in the current database constructed from one year of TRMM data, resulting in the retrieval performing relatively poorly for these systems, particularly for the highest rain rates. To address this deficiency, a new database focusing specifically on hurricanes but consisting of 9 years of TRMM data is created. The new database and retrieval procedure for TMI and GMI is called Hurricane GPROF. An initial assessment of seven tropical cyclones shows that Hurricane GPROF provides a better estimate of hurricane rain rates than GPROF 2014. Hurricane GPROF rain-rate errors relative to the PR are reduced by 20% compared to GPROF, with improvements in the lowest and highest rain rates especially. Vertical profile retrievals for four hydrometeors are also enhanced, as error is reduced by 30% compared to the GPROF retrieval, relative to PR estimates. When compared to the full database of tropical cyclones, Hurricane GPROF improves the RMSE and MAE of rain-rate estimates over those from GPROF by about 22% and 27%, respectively. Similar improvements are also seen in the overall rain-rate bias for hurricanes in the database, which is reduced from 0.20 to −0.06 mm h−1.

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Hirohiko Masunaga, Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, and Christian D. Kummerow

Abstract

Regional and temporal variability in the vertical and horizontal characteristics of tropical precipitating clouds are investigated using the Precipitation Radar (PR) and the Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) on board the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. The present study focuses on the three oceanic regions (west, central, and east Pacific) together with two continental regions for comparison and the two separate time periods (February 1998 and February 2000) under different phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in order to examine regional and ENSO-related variations. The height spectrums of storms are investigated in terms of radar echo-top height and infrared brightness temperature. The variability in the spectrum clearly correlates with the large-scale circulation and its ENSO-related change. On the basis of the height spectrum, storm systems are classified into the four categories of shallow, cumulus congestus, deep stratiform, and deep convective. The deep stratiform and deep convective categories, both of which have very cold cloud tops, are differentiated by radar echo-top heights so that deep convective systems are accompanied with an appreciable amount of large frozen particles aloft. While shallow events are dominant in the probability of occurrence over relatively cold oceans, deep convective systems take their place for warmer sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The turnover occurs at the SST threshold of 28°–29°C for all the oceanic regions and years investigated except the west Pacific in 2000, for which deep convective systems prevail over the entire range of SST. Rain correlation-scale length (RCSL) and cloud correlation-scale length (CCSL) are introduced as statistical indicators of the horizontal scale of storms. While the RCSL is 8–18 km for shallow- and cumulus congestus–type clouds without significant regional and temporal variations, the RCSL and CCSL associated with deep stratiform and deep convective systems consistently exceed 100 km and exhibit a systematic variability. The RCSL and CCSL in the central and east Pacific, particularly, increase significantly in the El Niño year.

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Clément Guilloteau, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, and Christian D. Kummerow

Abstract

The constellation of spaceborne passive microwave (MW) sensors, coordinated under the framework of the Precipitation Measurement Missions international agreement, continuously produces observations of clouds and precipitation all over the globe. The Goddard profiling algorithm (GPROF) is designed to infer the instantaneous surface precipitation rate from the measured MW radiances. The last version of the algorithm (GPROF-2014)—the product of more than 20 years of algorithmic development, validation, and improvement—is currently used to estimate precipitation rates from the microwave imager GMI on board the GPM core satellite. The previous version of the algorithm (GPROF-2010) was used with the microwave imager TMI on board TRMM. In this paper, TMI-GPROF-2010 estimates and GMI-GPROF-2014 estimates are compared with coincident active measurements from the Precipitation Radar on board TRMM and the Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar on board GPM, considered as reference products. The objective is to assess the improvement of the GPM-era microwave estimates relative to the TRMM-era estimates and diagnose regions where continuous improvement is needed. The assessment is oriented toward estimating the “effective resolution” of the MW estimates, that is, the finest scale at which the retrieval is able to accurately reproduce the spatial variability of precipitation. A wavelet-based multiscale decomposition of the radar and passive microwave precipitation fields is used to formally define and assess the effective resolution. It is found that the GPM-era MW retrieval can resolve finer-scale spatial variability over oceans than the TRMM-era retrieval. Over land, significant challenges exist, and this analysis provides useful diagnostics and a benchmark against which future retrieval algorithm improvement can be assessed.

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Hirohiko Masunaga, Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, and Christian D. Kummerow

Abstract

A satellite data analysis is performed to explore the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) focusing on the potential roles of the equatorial Rossby (ER) and Kelvin waves. Measurements from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Precipitation Radar (PR) and Visible/Infrared Scanner (VIRS) are analyzed in the frequency–wavenumber domain to identify and ultimately filter primary low-frequency modes in the Tropics. The space–time spectrum of deep-storm fraction estimated by PR and VIRS exhibits notable Kelvin wave signals at wavenumbers 5–8, a distinct MJO peak at wavenumbers 1–7 and periods of about 40 days, and a signal corresponding to the ER wave. These modes are separately filtered to study the individual modes and possible relationship among them in the time–longitude space. In 10 cases analyzed here, an MJO event is often collocated with a group of consecutive Kelvin waves as well as an intruding ER wave accompanied with the occasional onset of a stationary convective phase. The spatial and temporal relationship between the MJO and Kelvin wave is clearly visible in a lag composite diagram, while the ubiquity of the ER wave leads to a less pronounced relation between the MJO and ER wave. A case study based on the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) imagery together with associated dynamic field captures the substructure of the planetary-scale waves. A cross-correlation analysis confirms the MJO-related cycle that involves surface and atmospheric parameters such as sea surface temperature, water vapor, low clouds, shallow convection, and near-surface wind as proposed in past studies. The findings suggest the possibility that a sequence of convective events coupled with the linear waves may play a critical role in MJO propagation. An intraseasonal radiative–hydrological cycle inherent in the local thermodynamic conditions could be also a potential factor responsible for the MJO by loosely modulating the envelope of the entire propagation system.

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Matthew D. Lebsock, Christian Kummerow, and Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

Anomalies of precipitation, cloud, thermodynamic, and radiation variables are analyzed on the large spatial scale defined by the tropical oceans. In particular, relationships between the mean tropical oceanic precipitation anomaly and radiative anomalies are examined. It is found that tropical mean precipitation is well correlated with cloud properties and radiative fields. In particular, the tropical mean precipitation anomaly is positively correlated with the top of the atmosphere reflected shortwave anomaly and negatively correlated with the emitted longwave anomaly. The tropical mean relationships are found to primarily result from a coherent oscillation of precipitation and the area of high-level cloudiness. The correlations manifest themselves radiatively as a modest decrease in net downwelling radiation at the top of the atmosphere, and a redistribution of energy from the surface to the atmosphere through reduced solar radiation to the surface and decreased longwave emission to space. Integrated over the tropical oceanic domain, the anomalous atmospheric column radiative heating is found to be about 10% of the magnitude of the anomalous latent heating. The temporal signature of the radiative heating is observed in the column mean temperature that indicates a coherent phase-lagged oscillation between atmospheric stability and convection. These relationships are identified as a radiative–convective cloud feedback that is observed on intraseasonal time scales in the tropical atmosphere.

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Clément Guilloteau, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Christian D. Kummerow, and Veljko Petković

Abstract

The scattering of microwaves at frequencies between 50 and 200 GHz by ice particles in the atmosphere is an essential element in the retrieval of instantaneous surface precipitation from spaceborne passive radiometers. This paper explores how the variable distribution of solid and liquid hydrometeors in the atmospheric column over land surfaces affects the brightness temperature (TB) measured by GMI at 89 GHz through the analysis of Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) reflectivity profiles along the 89-GHz beam. The objective is to refine the statistical relations between observed TBs and surface precipitation over land and to define their limits. As GMI is scanning with a 53° Earth incident angle, the observed atmospheric volume is actually not a vertical column, which may lead to very heterogeneous and seemingly inconsistent distributions of the hydrometeors inside the beam. It is found that the 89-GHz TB is mostly sensitive to the presence of ice hydrometeors several kilometers above the 0°C isotherm, up to 10 km above the 0°C isotherm for the deepest convective systems, but is a modest predictor of the surface precipitation rate. To perform a precise mapping of atmospheric ice, the altitude of the individual ice clusters must be known. Indeed, if variations in the altitude of ice are not accounted for, then the high incident angle of GMI causes a horizontal shift (parallax shift) between the estimated position of the ice clusters and their actual position. We show here that the altitude of ice clusters can be derived from the 89-GHz TB itself, allowing for correction of the parallax shift.

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Ye Hong, Christian D. Kummerow, and William S. Olson

Abstract

This paper presents a new scheme that classifies convective and stratiform (C/S) precipitation areas over oceans using microwave brightness temperature. In this scheme, data are first screened to eliminate nonraining pixels. For raining pixels, C/S indices are computed from brightness temperatures and their variability for emission (19 and 37 GHz) and scattering (85 GHz). Since lower-resolution satellite data generally contain mixtures of convective and stratiform precipitation, a probability matching method is employed to relate the C/S index to a convective fraction of precipitation area.

The scheme has been applied on synthetic data generated from a dynamical cloud model and radiative transfer computations to simulate the frequencies and resolutions of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave (TMI) Imager as well as the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I). The results from simulated TMI data during the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Response Experiment agree very well with the ground-based radar classification maps. The classification accuracy degrades when SSM/I data is used, due largely to the lower spatial resolution of the SSM/I.

The successful launch of TRMM satellite in November 1997 has made it possible to test this scheme on actual TMI data. Preliminary results of TMI derived C/S classification compared with that from the first spaceborne precipitation radar has shown a very good agreement. Further verification and improvement of this scheme are under way.

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Rebecca A. Bolinger, Christian D. Kummerow, and Nolan J. Doesken

Abstract

Previous research has shown that the temperature and precipitation variability in the Upper Colorado River basin (UCRB) is correlated with large-scale climate variability [i.e., El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO)]. But this correlation is not very strong, suggesting the need to look beyond the statistics. Looking at monthly contributions across the basin, results show that February is least sensitive to variability, and a wet October could be a good predictor for a wet season. A case study of a wet and a dry year (with similar ENSO/PDO conditions) shows that the occurrence of a few large accumulating events is what drives the seasonal variability, and these large events can happen under a variety of synoptic conditions. Looking at several physical factors that can impact the amount of accumulation in any given event, it is found that large accumulating events (>10 mm in one day) are associated with westerly winds at all levels, higher wind speeds at all levels, and greater amounts of total precipitable water. The most important difference between a large accumulating and small accumulating event is the presence of a strong (>4 m s−1) low-level westerly wind. Because much more emphasis should be given to this more local feature, as opposed to large-scale variability, an accurate seasonal forecast for the basin is not producible at this time.

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