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Ryan Gonzalez and Christian D. Kummerow

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Snowfall and snowpack are tightly coupled within the snow water cycle and careful monitoring is crucial to better understand snow’s role in Earth’s water and energy cycles. Current and future estimates of the total amount of seasonal snow on the ground are limited by the variability in the initial snowfall and uncertainties in in situ and remote sensing observations. In this study, passive microwave remote sensing estimates of snowfall and snow water equivalent (SWE) from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) instrument are used to assess the consistency in the snow products. A snow evolution model, SnowModel, is employed to simulate snow processes that occur between the initial snowfall and subsequent SWE. AMSR-E is found to have significant discrepancies in both snowfall and SWE compared to MERRA-2 reanalysis and the Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC) snow product. It is shown that AMSR-E snowfall is currently not a useful metric to estimate SWE without applying large corrections throughout the winter season. Regions of consistency in the AMSR-E snow products occur for reasons that pertain to underestimation in both snowfall and SWE. In addition to snow consistency, microwave brightness temperatures (TBs) are analyzed in response to the snowpack and snowfall physical properties. These experiments indicate significant sensitivity to regime-dependent scattering characteristics that must be accounted for to accurately estimate global snow properties and provide better physical consistency in the snow products from remote sensing platforms.

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Michael Garstang and Christian D. Kummerow
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Hirohiko Masunaga and Christian D. Kummerow

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A methodology to analyze precipitation profiles using the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) and precipitation radar (PR) is proposed. Rainfall profiles are retrieved from PR measurements, defined as the best-fit solution selected from precalculated profiles by cloud-resolving models (CRMs), under explicitly defined assumptions of drop size distribution (DSD) and ice hydrometeor models. The PR path-integrated attenuation (PIA), where available, is further used to adjust DSD in a manner that is similar to the PR operational algorithm. Combined with the TMI-retrieved nonraining geophysical parameters, the three-dimensional structure of the geophysical parameters is obtained across the satellite-observed domains. Microwave brightness temperatures are then computed for a comparison with TMI observations to examine if the radar-retrieved rainfall is consistent in the radiometric measurement space. The inconsistency in microwave brightness temperatures is reduced by iterating the retrieval procedure with updated assumptions of the DSD and ice-density models. The proposed methodology is expected to refine the a priori rain profile database and error models for use by parametric passive microwave algorithms, aimed at the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, as well as a future TRMM algorithms.

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Veljko Petković and Christian D. Kummerow

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Analyses of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite rainfall estimates reveal a substantial disagreement between its active [Precipitation Radar (PR)] and passive [TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI)] sensors over certain regions. This study focuses on understanding the role of the synoptic state of atmosphere in these discrepancies over land regions where passive microwave (PMW) retrievals are limited to scattering signals. As such the variability in the relationship between the ice-induced scattering signal and the surface rainfall is examined. Using the Amazon River and central Africa regions as a test bed, it is found that the systematic difference seen between PR and TMI rainfall estimates is well correlated with both the precipitating system structure and the level of its organization. Relying on a clustering technique to group raining scenes into three broad but distinct organizational categories, it is found that, relative to the PR, deep-organized systems are typically overestimated by TMI while the shallower ones are underestimated. Results suggest that the storm organization level can explain up to 50% of the regional systematic difference between the two sensors. Because of its potential for retrieval improvement, the ability to forecast the level of systems organization is tested. The state of the atmosphere is found to favor certain storm types when constrained by CAPE, wind shear, dewpoint depression, and vertical humidity distribution. Among other findings, the observations reveal that the ratio between boundary layer and midtropospheric moisture correlates well with the organization level of convection. If adjusted by the observed PR-to-TMI ratio under a given environment, the differences between PMW and PR rainfall estimates are diminished, at maximum, by 30% in RMSE and by 40% in the mean.

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Veljko Petković and Christian D. Kummerow

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A spatiotemporal correlation technique has been developed to combine satellite rainfall measurements using the spatial and temporal correlation of the rainfall fields to overcome problems of limited and infrequent measurements while accounting for the measurement accuracies. The relationship between the temporal and spatial correlation of the rainfall field is exploited to provide information about rainfall beyond instantaneous measurements. The technique is developed using synthetic radar data. Nine months of Operational Program for the Exchange of Weather Radar (OPERA) data are used on grid sizes of 100, 248, and 500 km with pixel resolutions of 8, 12, and 24 km to simulate satellite fields of view and are then applied to the real satellite data over the Southwest to calculate 3-h rainfall accumulations. The results are compared with the simple averaging technique, which takes a simple mean of the measurements as a constant rainfall rate over the entire accumulation period. Using synthetic data, depending on the time separation of the measurements and their accuracy, a spatiotemporal correlation technique has shown the potential to yield improvements of up to 40% in absolute error and up to 25% in root-mean-square error when compared with the simple averaging technique. When applied to the real satellite data over the Southeast, the technique showed much less skill (general improvement of only 2%–6%).

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David Randall and Christian D. Kummerow
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Veljko Petković and Christian D. Kummerow

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An updated version of the Goddard Profiling Algorithm (GPROF 2014) with a new overland scheme was released with the launch of the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) core satellite in February 2014. The algorithm is designed to provide consistent precipitation estimates over both ocean and land across diverse satellite platforms. This study tests the performance of the new retrieval, focusing specifically on an extreme rainfall event. Two contrasting 72-h precipitation events over the same area are used to compare the retrieved products against ground measurements. The first event is characterized by persistent and intense precipitation of an unusually strong and widespread system, which caused historical flooding of the central Balkan region of southeastern Europe in May 2014. The second event serves as a baseline case for a more typical midlatitude regime. Rainfall rates and 3-day accumulations given by five conically scanning radiometers (GMI; AMSR2; and SSMIS F16, F17, and F18) in the GPM constellation are compared against ground radar data from the Operational Program for Exchange of Weather Radar Information (OPERA) network and in situ measurements. Satellite products show good agreement with ground radars; the retrieval closely reproduces spatial and temporal characteristics of both events. Strong biases related to precipitation regimes are found when satellite and radar measurements are compared to ground gauges. While the GPM constellation performs well during the nonextreme event, showing ~10% negative bias, it underestimates gauge accumulations of the Balkan flood event by 60%. Analyses show that the biases are caused by the differences between the expected and observed ice-scattering signals, suggesting that better understanding of the environment and its impact on rain profiles is the key for successful retrievals in extreme events.

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Shoichi Shige and Christian D. Kummerow

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Over coastal mountain ranges of the Asian monsoon region, heavy orographic rainfall is frequently associated with low precipitation-top heights (PTHs). This leads to conspicuous underestimation of rainfall using microwave radiometer algorithms, which conventionally assume that heavy rainfall is associated with high PTHs. Although topographically forced upward motion is important for rainfall occurrence, it does not fully constrain precipitation profiles in this region. This paper focuses on the thermodynamic characteristics of the atmosphere that determine PTHs in tropical coastal mountains of Asia (Western Ghats, Arakan Yoma, Bilauktaung, Cardamom, Annam Range, and the Philippines).

PTHs of heavy orographic rainfall generally decrease with enhanced low- and midlevel relative humidity, especially during the summer monsoon. In contrast, PTHs over the Annam Range of the Indochina Peninsula increase with enhanced low-level and midlevel relative humidity during the transition from boreal summer to winter monsoon, demonstrating that convection depth is not simply a function of humidity. Instead, PTHs of heavy orographic rainfall decreased with increasing low-level stability for all monsoon regions considered in this study, as well as the Annam Range during the transition from boreal summer to winter monsoon. Therefore, low-level static stability, which inhibits cloud growth and promotes cloud detrainment, appears to be the most important parameter in determining PTHs of heavy rainfall in the Asian monsoon region.

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Graeme L. Stephens and Christian D. Kummerow

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This paper presents a critical review of a number of popular methods that have been developed to retrieve cloud and precipitation properties from satellite radiance measurements. The emphasis of the paper is on the retrieval uncertainties associated with these methods, as these shape future data assimilation applications, either in the form of direct radiance assimilation or assimilation of retrieved geophysical data, or even in the use of retrieved information as a source of model error characterization. It is demonstrated throughout the paper how cloud and precipitation observing systems developed around seemingly simple concepts are in fact very complex and largely underconstrained, which explains, in part, why assigning realistic errors to these properties has been so elusive in the past. Two primary sources of error that define the observing system are highlighted throughout: (i) the first source is errors associated with the identification of cloudy scenes from clear scenes and the identification of precipitation in cloudy scenes from nonprecipitating cloudy scenes. The problems of discriminating of cloud clear and cloud precipitation are illustrated using examples drawn from microwave cloud liquid water path and precipitation retrievals. (ii) The second source is errors introduced by the forward model and its related parameters. The forward model generally contains two main components: a model of the atmosphere and the cloud and precipitation structures imbedded in that atmosphere and a forward model of the radiative transfer that produces the synthetic measurement that is ultimately compared to the measurement. The vast majority of methods developed for deriving cloud and precipitation information from satellite measurements is highly sensitive to these model parameters, which merely reflects the underconstrained nature of the problem and the need for other information in deriving solutions. The cloud and precipitation retrieval examples presented in this paper are most often constructed around very unrealistic atmosphere models typically composed of just a few layers. The consequence is that the retrievals become too sensitive to the unobserved parameters of those layers and the atmosphere above and below. Clearly a better definition of the atmospheric state, and the vertical structure of clouds and precipitation, are needed to improve the information extracted from satellite observations, and it is for this reason that the combination of active and passive measurements offers much hope for improving cloud and precipitation retrievals.

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Gregory S. Elsaesser and Christian D. Kummerow

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In light of the upcoming launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a parametric retrieval algorithm of the nonraining parameters over the global oceans is developed with the ability to accommodate all currently existing and planned spaceborne microwave window channel sensors and imagers. The physical retrieval is developed using all available sensor channels in a full optimal estimation inversion. This framework requires that retrieved parameters be physically consistent with all observed satellite radiances regardless of the sensor being used. The retrieval algorithm has been successfully applied to the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (AMSR-E), the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I), and the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) with geophysical parameter retrieval results comparable to independent studies using sensor-optimized algorithms. The optimal estimation diagnostics characterize the retrieval further, providing errors associated with each of the retrieved parameters, indicating whether the retrieved state is physically consistent with observed radiances, and yielding information on how well simulated radiances agree with observed radiances. This allows for the quantitative assessment of potential calibration issues in either the model or sensor. In addition, there is an expected, consistent response of these diagnostics based on the scene being observed, such as in the case of a raining scene, allowing for the emergence of a rainfall detection scheme providing a new capability in rainfall identification for use in passive microwave rainfall and cloud property retrievals.

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