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Jackson Tan and Lazaros Oreopoulos

Abstract

The distribution of mesoscale precipitation exhibits diverse patterns: precipitation can be intense but sporadic, or it can be light but widespread. This range of behaviors is a reflection of the different weather systems in the global atmosphere. Using MODIS global cloud regimes as proxies for different atmospheric systems, this study investigates the subgrid precipitation properties within these systems. Taking advantage of the high resolution of Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG; GPM is the Global Precipitation Measurement mission), precipitation values at 0.1° are composited with each cloud regime at 1° grid cells to characterize the regime’s spatial subgrid precipitation properties. The results reveal the diversity of the subgrid precipitation behavior of the atmospheric systems. Organized convection is associated with the highest grid-mean precipitation rates and precipitating fraction, although on average only half the grid is precipitating and there is substantial variability between different occurrences. Summer extratropical storms have the next highest precipitation, driven mainly by moderate precipitation rates over large areas. These systems produce more precipitation than isolated convective systems, for which the lower precipitating fractions balance out the high intensities. Most systems produce heavier precipitation in the afternoon than in the morning. The grid-mean precipitation rate is also found to scale with the fraction of precipitation within the grid in a faster-than-linear relationship for most systems. This study elucidates the precipitation properties within cloud regimes, thus advancing our understanding of the precipitation structures of these atmospheric systems.

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Jackson Tan, Walter A. Petersen, and Ali Tokay

Abstract

The comparison of satellite and high-quality, ground-based estimates of precipitation is an important means to assess the confidence in satellite-based algorithms and to provide a benchmark for their continued development and future improvement. To these ends, it is beneficial to identify sources of estimation uncertainty, thereby facilitating a precise understanding of the origins of the problem. This is especially true for new datasets such as the Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) product, which provides global precipitation gridded at a high resolution using measurements from different sources and techniques. Here, IMERG is evaluated against a dense network of gauges in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. A novel approach is presented, leveraging ancillary variables in IMERG to attribute the errors to the individual instruments or techniques within the algorithm. As a whole, IMERG exhibits some misses and false alarms for rain detection, while its rain-rate estimates tend to overestimate drizzle and underestimate heavy rain with considerable random error. Tracing the errors to their sources, the most reliable IMERG estimates come from passive microwave satellites, which in turn exhibit a hierarchy of performance. The morphing technique has comparable proficiency with the less skillful satellites, but infrared estimations perform poorly. The approach here demonstrated that, underlying the overall reasonable performance of IMERG, different sources have different reliability, thus enabling both IMERG users and developers to better recognize the uncertainty in the estimate. Future validation efforts are urged to adopt such a categorization to bridge between gridded rainfall and instantaneous satellite estimates.

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Jackson Tan, Christian Jakob, and Todd P. Lane

Abstract

The use of cloud regimes in identifying tropical convection and the associated large-scale atmospheric properties is investigated. The regimes are derived by applying cluster analysis to satellite retrievals of daytime-averaged frequency distributions of cloud-top pressure and optical thickness within grids of 280 km by 280 km resolution from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project between 1983 and 2008. An investigation of atmospheric state variables as a function of cloud regime reveals that the regimes are useful indicators of the archetypal states of the tropical atmosphere ranging from a strongly convecting regime with large stratiform cloudiness to strongly suppressed conditions showing a large coverage with stratocumulus clouds. The convectively active regimes are shown to be moist and unstable with large-scale ascending motion, while convectively suppressed regimes are dry and stable with large-scale descending winds. Importantly, the cloud regimes also represent several transitional states. In particular, the cloud regime approach allows for the identification of the “building blocks” of tropical convection, namely, the regimes dominated by stratiform, deep, and congestus convection. The availability of the daily distribution of these building blocks for more than 20 years opens new avenues for the diagnosis of convective behavior as well as the evaluation of the representation of convection in global and regional models.

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Nayeong Cho, Jackson Tan, and Lazaros Oreopoulos

Abstract

We present an updated cloud regime (CR) dataset based on Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Collection 6.1 cloud products, specifically, joint histograms that partition cloud fraction within distinct combinations of cloud-top pressure and cloud optical thickness ranges. The paper focuses on an edition of the CR dataset derived from our own aggregation of MODIS pixel-level cloud retrievals on an equal-area grid and prespecified 3-h UTC intervals that spatiotemporally match International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) gridded cloud data. The other edition comes from the 1° daily aggregation provided by standard MODIS Level-3 data, as in previous versions of the MODIS CRs, for easier use with datasets mapped on equal-angle grids. Both editions consist of 11 clusters whose centroids are nearly identical. We provide a physical interpretation of the new CRs and aspects of their climatology that have not been previously examined, such as seasonal and interannual variability of CR frequency of occurrence. We also examine the makeup and precipitation properties of the CRs assisted by independent datasets originating from active observations and provide a first glimpse of how MODIS CRs relate to clouds as seen by ISCCP.

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Manikandan Rajagopal, Edward Zipser, George Huffman, James Russell, and Jackson Tan

Abstract

The Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (IMERG) is a global precipitation product that uses precipitation retrievals from the virtual constellation of satellites with passive microwave (PMW) sensors, as available. In the absence of PMW observations, IMERG uses a Kalman filter scheme to morph precipitation from one PMW observation to the next. In this study, an analysis of convective systems observed during the Convective Process Experiment (CPEX) suggests that IMERG precipitation depends more strongly on the availability of PMW observations than previously suspected. Following this evidence, we explore systematic biases in IMERG through bulk statistics. In two CPEX case studies, cloud photographs, pilot’s radar, and infrared imagery suggest that IMERG represents the spatial extent of precipitation relatively well when there is a PMW observation but sometimes produces spurious precipitation areas in the absence of PMW observations. Also, considering an observed convective system as a precipitation object in IMERG, the maximum rain rate peaked during PMW overpasses, with lower values between them. Bulk statistics reveal that these biases occur throughout IMERG Version 06. We find that locations and times without PMW observations have a higher frequency of light precipitation rates and a lower frequency of heavy precipitation rates due to retrieval artifacts. These results reveal deficiencies in the IMERG Kalman filter scheme, which have led to the development of the Scheme for Histogram Adjustment with Ranked Precipitation Estimates in the Neighborhood (SHARPEN; described in a companion paper) that will be applied in the next version of IMERG.

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Jackson Tan, Walter A. Petersen, Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter, and Yudong Tian

Abstract

The Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG), a global high-resolution gridded precipitation dataset, will enable a wide range of applications, ranging from studies on precipitation characteristics to applications in hydrology to evaluation of weather and climate models. These applications focus on different spatial and temporal scales and thus average the precipitation estimates to coarser resolutions. Such a modification of scale will impact the reliability of IMERG. In this study, the performance of the Final Run of IMERG is evaluated against ground-based measurements as a function of increasing spatial resolution (from 0.1° to 2.5°) and accumulation periods (from 0.5 to 24 h) over a region in the southeastern United States. For ground reference, a product derived from the Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor suite, a radar- and gauge-based operational precipitation dataset, is used. The TRMM Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) is also included as a benchmark. In general, both IMERG and TMPA improve when scaled up to larger areas and longer time periods, with better identification of rain occurrences and consistent improvements in systematic and random errors of rain rates. Between the two satellite estimates, IMERG is slightly better than TMPA most of the time. These results will inform users on the reliability of IMERG over the scales relevant to their studies.

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Daeho Jin, Lazaros Oreopoulos, Dongmin Lee, Jackson Tan, and Nayeong Cho

Abstract

To better understand cloud–precipitation relationships, we extend the concept of cloud regimes developed from two-dimensional joint histograms of cloud optical thickness and cloud-top pressure from MODIS to include precipitation information. Taking advantage of the high-resolution IMERG precipitation dataset, we derive cloud–precipitation “hybrid” regimes by implementing a k-means clustering algorithm with advanced initialization and objective measures to determine the optimal number of clusters. By expressing the variability of precipitation rates within 1° grid cells as histograms and varying the relative weight of cloud and precipitation information in the clustering algorithm, we obtain several editions of hybrid cloud–precipitation regimes (CPRs) and examine their characteristics. In the deep tropics, when precipitation is weighted weakly, the cloud part centroids of the hybrid regimes resemble their counterparts of cloud-only regimes, but combined clustering tightens the cloud–precipitation relationship by decreasing each regime’s precipitation variability. As precipitation weight progressively increases, the shape of the cloud part centroids becomes blunter, while the precipitation part sharpens. When cloud and precipitation are weighted equally, the CPRs representing high clouds with intermediate to heavy precipitation exhibit distinct enough features in the precipitation parts of the centroids to allow us to project them onto the 30-min IMERG domain. Such a projection overcomes the temporal sparseness of MODIS cloud observations associated with substantial rainfall, suggesting great application potential for convection-focused studies for which characterization of the diurnal cycle is essential.

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Jackson Tan, Nayeong Cho, Lazaros Oreopoulos, and Pierre Kirstetter

Abstract

Precipitation retrievals from passive microwave satellite observations form the basis of many widely used precipitation products, but the performance of the retrievals depends on numerous factors such as surface type and precipitation variability. Previous evaluation efforts have identified bias dependence on precipitation regime, which may reflect the influence on retrievals of recurring factors. In this study, the concept of a regime-based evaluation of precipitation from the Goddard profiling (GPROF) algorithm is extended to cloud regimes. Specifically, GPROF V05 precipitation retrievals under four different cloud regimes are evaluated against ground radars over the United States. GPROF is generally able to accurately retrieve the precipitation associated with both organized convection and less organized storms, which collectively produce a substantial fraction of global precipitation. However, precipitation from stratocumulus systems is underestimated over land and overestimated over water. Similarly, precipitation associated with trade cumulus environments is underestimated over land, while biases over water depend on the sensor’s channel configuration. By extending the evaluation to more sensors and suppressed environments, these results complement insights previously obtained from precipitation regimes, thus demonstrating the potential of cloud regimes in categorizing the global atmosphere into discrete systems.

Significance Statement

To understand how the accuracy of satellite precipitation depends on weather conditions, we compare the satellite estimates of precipitation against ground radars in the United States, using cloud regimes as a proxy for different recurring atmospheric systems. Consistent with previous studies, we found that errors in the satellite precipitation vary under different regimes. Satellite precipitation is, reassuringly, more accurate for storm systems that produce intense precipitation. However, in systems that produce weak or isolated precipitation, the errors are larger due to retrieval limitations. These findings highlight the important role of atmospheric states on the accuracy of satellite precipitation and the potential of cloud regimes for categorizing the global atmosphere.

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David T. Bolvin, George J. Huffman, Eric J. Nelkin, and Jackson Tan

Abstract

Satellite-based precipitation estimates provide valuable information where surface observations are not readily available, especially over the large expanses of the ocean where in situ precipitation observations are very sparse. This study compares monthly precipitation estimates from the Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) with gauge observations from 37 low-lying atolls from the Pacific Rainfall Database for the period June 2000–August 2020. Over the analysis period, IMERG estimates are slightly higher than the atoll observations by 0.67% with a monthly correlation of 0.68. Seasonally, DJF shows excellent agreement with a near-zero bias, while MAM shows IMERG is low by 4.6%, and JJA is high by 1.2%. SON exhibits the worst performance, with IMERG overestimating by 6.5% compared to the atolls. The seasonal correlations are well contained in the range 0.67–0.72, with the exception of SON at 0.62. Furthermore, SON has the highest RMSE at 4.70 mm day−1, making it the worst season for all metrics. Scatterplots of IMERG versus atolls show IMERG, on average, is generally low for light precipitation accumulations and high for intense precipitation accumulations, with best agreement at intermediate rates. Seasonal variations exist at light and intermediate rate accumulations, but IMERG consistently overestimates at intense precipitation rates. The differences between IMERG and atolls vary over time but do not exhibit any discernable trend or dependence on atoll population. The PACRAIN atoll gauges are not wind-loss corrected, so application of an appropriate adjustment would increase the precipitation amounts compared to IMERG. These results provide useful insight to users as well as valuable information for future improvements to IMERG.

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

Abstract

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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