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Frank S. Marzano, Domenico Cimini, Tommaso Rossi, Daniele Mortari, Sabatino Di Michele, and Peter Bauer

Abstract

The potential of an elliptical-orbit Flower Constellation of Millimeter-Wave Radiometers (FLORAD) for humidity profile and precipitating cloud observations is analyzed and discussed. The FLORAD mission scientific requirements are aimed at the retrieval of hydrological properties of the troposphere, specifically water vapor, cloud liquid content, rainfall, and snowfall profiles. This analysis is built on the results already obtained in previous works and is specifically devoted to evaluate the possibility of (i) deploying an incremental configuration of a Flower constellation of six minisatellites, optimized to provide the maximum revisit time over the Mediterranean area or, more generally, midlatitudes (between ±35° and ±65°); and (ii) evaluating in a quantitative way the accuracy of a one-dimensional variational data assimilation (1D-Var) Bayesian retrieval scheme to derive hydrometeor profiles at quasi-global scale using an optimized set of millimeter-wave frequencies. The obtained results show that a revisit time over the Mediterranean area (latitude 25° 45′, longitude −10° 35′°) of less than about 1 and 0.5 h can be obtained with four satellites and six satellites in Flower elliptical orbits, respectively. The accuracy of the retrieved hydrometeor profiles over land and sea for a winter and summer season at several latitudes shows the beneficial performance from using a combination of channels at 89, 118, 183, and 229 GHz. A lack of lower frequencies, such as those below 50 GHz, reduces the sounding capability for cloud lower layers, but the temperature and humidity retrievals provide a useful hydrometeor profile constraint. The FLORAD mission is fully consistent with the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) scope and may significantly increase its space–time coverage. The concept of an incremental Flower constellation can ensure the flexibility to deploy a spaceborne system that achieves increasing coverage through separate launches of member spacecrafts. The choice of millimeter-wave frequencies provides the advantage of designing compact radiometers that comply well with the current technology of minisatellites (overall weight less than 500 kg). The overall budget of the FLORAD small mission might become appealing as an optimal compromise between retrieval performances and system complexity.

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