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Marlon Maranan, Andreas H. Fink, Peter Knippertz, Leonard K. Amekudzi, Winifred A. Atiah, and Martin Stengel

Abstract

Using a two-year dataset (2016–17) from 17 one-minute rain gauges located in the moist forest region of Ghana, the performance of Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM, version 6b (IMERG), is evaluated based on a subdaily time scale, down to the level of the underlying passive microwave (PMW) and infrared (IR) sources. Additionally, the spaceborne cloud product Cloud Property Dataset Using SEVIRI, edition 2 (CLAAS-2), available every 15 min, is used to link IMERG rainfall to cloud-top properties. Several important issues are identified: 1) IMERG’s proneness to low-intensity false alarms, accounting for more than a fifth of total rainfall; 2) IMERG’s overestimation of the rainfall amount from frequently occurring weak convective events, while that of relatively rare but strong mesoscale convective systems is underestimated, resulting in an error compensation; and 3) a decrease of skill during the little dry season in July and August, known to feature enhanced low-level cloudiness and warm rain. These findings are related to 1) a general oversensitivity for clouds with low ice and liquid water path and a particular oversensitivity for low cloud optical thickness, a problem which is slightly reduced for direct PMW overpasses; 2) a pronounced negative bias for high rain intensities, strongest when IR data are included; and 3) a large fraction of missed events linked with rainfall out of warm clouds, which are inherently misinterpreted by IMERG and its sources. This paper emphasizes the potential of validating spaceborne rainfall products with high-resolution rain gauges on a subdaily time scale, particularly for the understudied West African region.

Open access
Eva-Maria Walz, Marlon Maranan, Roderick van der Linden, Andreas H. Fink, and Peter Knippertz

Abstract

Current numerical weather prediction models show limited skill in predicting low-latitude precipitation. To aid future improvements, be it with better dynamical or statistical models, we propose a well-defined benchmark forecast. We use the arguably best available high-resolution, gauge-calibrated, gridded precipitation product, the Integrated Multisatellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) “final run” in a ±15-day window around the date of interest to build an empirical climatological ensemble forecast. This window size is an optimal compromise between statistical robustness and flexibility to represent seasonal changes. We refer to this benchmark as extended probabilistic climatology (EPC) and compute it on a 0.1° × 0.1° grid for 40°S–40°N and the period 2001–19. To reduce and standardize information, a mixed Bernoulli–Gamma distribution is fitted to the empirical EPC, which hardly affects predictive performance. The EPC is then compared to 1-day ensemble predictions from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) using standard verification scores. With respect to rainfall amount, ECMWF performs only slightly better than EPS over most of the low latitudes and worse over high-mountain and dry oceanic areas as well as over tropical Africa, where the lack of skill is also evident in independent station data. For rainfall occurrence, EPC is superior over most oceanic, coastal, and mountain regions, although the better potential predictive ability of ECMWF indicates that this is mostly due to calibration problems. To encourage the use of the new benchmark, we provide the data, scripts, and an interactive web tool to the scientific community.

Open access
Simon Ageet, Andreas H. Fink, Marlon Maranan, Jeremy E. Diem, Joel Hartter, Andrew L. Ssali, and Prosper Ayabagabo

Abstract

Rain gauge data sparsity over Africa is known to impede the assessments of hydrometeorological risks and of the skill of numerical weather prediction models. Satellite rainfall estimates (SREs) have been used as surrogate fields for a long time and are continuously replaced by more advanced algorithms and new sensors. Using a unique daily rainfall dataset from 36 stations across equatorial East Africa for the period 2001–18, this study performs a multiscale evaluation of gauge-calibrated SREs, namely, IMERG, TMPA, CHIRPS, and MSWEP (v2.2 and v2.8). Skills were assessed from daily to annual time scales, for extreme daily precipitation, and for TMPA and IMERG near-real-time (NRT) products. Results show that 1) the SREs reproduce the annual rainfall pattern and seasonal rainfall cycle well, despite exhibiting biases of up to 9%; 2) IMERG is the best for shorter temporal scales while MSWEPv2.2 and CHIRPS perform best at the monthly and annual time steps, respectively; 3) the performance of all the SREs varies spatially, likely due to an inhomogeneous degree of gauge calibration, with the largest variation seen in MSWEPv2.2; 4) all the SREs miss between 79% (IMERG-NRT) and 98% (CHIRPS) of daily extreme rainfall events recorded by the rain gauges; 5) IMERG-NRT is the best regarding extreme event detection and accuracy; and 6) for return values of extreme rainfall, IMERG, and MSWEPv2.2 have the least errors while CHIRPS and MSWEPv2.8 cannot be recommended. The study also highlights improvements of IMERG over TMPA, the decline in performance of MSWEPv2.8 compared to MSWEPv2.2, and the potential of SREs for flood risk assessment over East Africa.

Open access
Marlon Maranan, Andreas H. Fink, Peter Knippertz, Sabastine D. Francis, Aristide B. Akpo, Gbenga Jegede, and Charles Yorke

Abstract

An intense mesoscale convective system (MCS) in the Guinea Coast region caused one of the highest ever recorded daily rainfall amounts at the Nigerian station Abakaliki on 12 June 2016 (223.5 mm). This paper provides a detailed analysis of the meso- and synoptic-scale factors leading to this event, including some so far undocumented dynamical aspects for southern West Africa. The MCS formed over the Darfur Mountains due to diurnal heating, then moved southwestward along a mid- to lower-tropospheric trough, and developed into a classical West African squall line in a highly sheared environment with pronounced midlevel dryness. Strong moisture flux convergence over Nigeria prior to the MCS passage led to extreme values in precipitable water and was caused by the formation of a local, short-lived heat low. According to the pressure tendency equation, the latter resulted from tropospheric warming due to MCS-forced subsidence as well as surface insolation in the resulting almost cloud-free atmosphere. In this extremely moist environment, the MCS strongly intensified and initiated the formation of a lower-tropospheric vortex, which resulted in a deceleration of the MCS and high rainfall accumulation at Abakaliki. Following the vorticity equation, the vortex formation was realized through strong low-level vortex stretching and upper-level vertical vorticity advection related to the MCS, which became “dynamically large” compared to the Rossby radius of deformation. Eventually, moisture supply and lifting associated with the vortex are suggested to promote the longevity of the MCS during the subsequent westward movement along the Guinea Coast.

Open access