Measuring the Global Distribution of Intense Convection over Land with Passive Microwave Radiometry

Roy W. Spencer Space Science and Engineering Center, Madison, WI 53706

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David A. Santek Space Science and Engineering Center, Madison, WI 53706

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Abstract

The global distribution of intense convective activity over land is shown to be measurable with satellite passive-microwave methods through a comparison of an empirical rain rate algorithm with a climatology of thunderstorm days for the months of June-August. With the 18 and 37 GHz channels of the Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR), the strong volume scattering effects of precipitation can be measured. Even though a single frequency (37 GHz) is responsive to the scattering signature, two frequencies are needed to remove most of the effect that variations in thermometric temperatures and soil moisture have on the brightness temperatures. Because snow cover is also a volume scatterer of microwave energy at these microwavelengths, a discrimination procedure involving four of the SMMR channels is employed to separate the rain and snow classes, based upon their differences in average thermometric temperature.

Abstract

The global distribution of intense convective activity over land is shown to be measurable with satellite passive-microwave methods through a comparison of an empirical rain rate algorithm with a climatology of thunderstorm days for the months of June-August. With the 18 and 37 GHz channels of the Nimbus-7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR), the strong volume scattering effects of precipitation can be measured. Even though a single frequency (37 GHz) is responsive to the scattering signature, two frequencies are needed to remove most of the effect that variations in thermometric temperatures and soil moisture have on the brightness temperatures. Because snow cover is also a volume scatterer of microwave energy at these microwavelengths, a discrimination procedure involving four of the SMMR channels is employed to separate the rain and snow classes, based upon their differences in average thermometric temperature.

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