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Matthew P. Young, Charles J. R. Williams, J. Christine Chiu, Ross I. Maidment, and Shu-Hua Chen

Abstract

Tropical Applications of Meteorology Using Satellite and Ground-Based Observations (TAMSAT) rainfall estimates are used extensively across Africa for operational rainfall monitoring and food security applications; thus, regional evaluations of TAMSAT are essential to ensure its reliability. This study assesses the performance of TAMSAT rainfall estimates, along with the African Rainfall Climatology (ARC), version 2; the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 product; and the Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH), against a dense rain gauge network over a mountainous region of Ethiopia. Overall, TAMSAT exhibits good skill in detecting rainy events but underestimates rainfall amount, while ARC underestimates both rainfall amount and rainy event frequency. Meanwhile, TRMM consistently performs best in detecting rainy events and capturing the mean rainfall and seasonal variability, while CMORPH tends to overdetect rainy events. Moreover, the mean difference in daily rainfall between the products and rain gauges shows increasing underestimation with increasing elevation. However, the distribution in satellite–gauge differences demonstrates that although 75% of retrievals underestimate rainfall, up to 25% overestimate rainfall over all elevations. Case studies using high-resolution simulations suggest underestimation in the satellite algorithms is likely due to shallow convection with warm cloud-top temperatures in addition to beam-filling effects in microwave-based retrievals from localized convective cells. The overestimation by IR-based algorithms is attributed to nonraining cirrus with cold cloud-top temperatures. These results stress the importance of understanding regional precipitation systems causing uncertainties in satellite rainfall estimates with a view toward using this knowledge to improve rainfall algorithms.

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T. H. M. Stein, W. Keat, R. I. Maidment, S. Landman, E. Becker, D. F. A. Boyd, A. Bodas-Salcedo, G. Pankiewicz, and S. Webster

Abstract

Since 2016, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has been running convective-scale simulations to assist with forecast operations across southern Africa. These simulations are run with a tropical configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (UM), nested in the Met Office global model, but without data assimilation. For November 2016, convection-permitting simulations at 4.4- and 1.5-km grid lengths are compared against a simulation at 10-km grid length with convection parameterization (the current UM global atmosphere configuration) to identify the benefits of increasing model resolution for forecasting convection across southern Africa. The simulations are evaluated against satellite rainfall estimates, CloudSat vertical cloud profiles, and SAWS radar data. In line with previous studies using the UM, on a monthly time scale, the diurnal cycle of convection and the distribution of rainfall rates compare better against observations when convection-permitting model configurations are used. The SAWS radar network provides a three-dimensional composite of radar reflectivity for northeast South Africa at 6-min intervals, allowing the evaluation of the vertical development of precipitating clouds and of the timing of the onset of deep convection. Analysis of four case study days indicates that the 4.4-km simulations have a later onset of convection than the 1.5-km simulations, but there is no consistent bias of the simulations against the radar observations across the case studies.

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