Passive Microwave Remote Sensing of Rainfall with SSM/I: Algorithm Development and Implementation

James G. Ferriday Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

Search for other papers by James G. Ferriday in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
and
Susan K. Avery Department of Electrical Engineering and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado

Search for other papers by Susan K. Avery in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Full access

Abstract

A physically based algorithm sensitive to emission and scattering is used to estimate rainfall using the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I). The algorithm is derived from radiative transfer calculations through an atmospheric cloud model specifying vertical distributions of ice and liquid hydrometeors as a function of rain rate. The algorithm is structured in two parts: SSM/I brightness temperatures are screened to detect rainfall and are then used in a rain-rate calculation. The screening process distinguishes between nonraining background conditions and emission and scattering associated with hydrometeors. Thermometric temperature and polarization thresholds determined from the radiative transfer calculations are used to detect rain, whereas the rain-rate calculation is based on a linear function fit to a linear combination of channels. Separate calculations for ocean and land account for different background conditions. The rain-rate calculation is constructed to respond to both emission and scattering, reduce extraneous atmospheric and surface effects, and to correct for beam filling. The resulting SSM/I rain-rate estimates are compared to three precipitation radars as well as to a dynamically simulated rainfall event. Global estimates from the SSM/I algorithm are also compared to continental and shipboard measurements over a 4-month period. The algorithm is found to accurately describe both localized instantaneous rainfall events and global monthly patterns over both land and ocean. Over land the 4-month mean difference between SSM/I and the Global Precipitation Climatology Center continental rain gauge database is less than 10%. Over the ocean, the mean difference between SSM/I and the Legates and Willmott global shipboard rain gauge climatology is less than 20%.

Abstract

A physically based algorithm sensitive to emission and scattering is used to estimate rainfall using the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I). The algorithm is derived from radiative transfer calculations through an atmospheric cloud model specifying vertical distributions of ice and liquid hydrometeors as a function of rain rate. The algorithm is structured in two parts: SSM/I brightness temperatures are screened to detect rainfall and are then used in a rain-rate calculation. The screening process distinguishes between nonraining background conditions and emission and scattering associated with hydrometeors. Thermometric temperature and polarization thresholds determined from the radiative transfer calculations are used to detect rain, whereas the rain-rate calculation is based on a linear function fit to a linear combination of channels. Separate calculations for ocean and land account for different background conditions. The rain-rate calculation is constructed to respond to both emission and scattering, reduce extraneous atmospheric and surface effects, and to correct for beam filling. The resulting SSM/I rain-rate estimates are compared to three precipitation radars as well as to a dynamically simulated rainfall event. Global estimates from the SSM/I algorithm are also compared to continental and shipboard measurements over a 4-month period. The algorithm is found to accurately describe both localized instantaneous rainfall events and global monthly patterns over both land and ocean. Over land the 4-month mean difference between SSM/I and the Global Precipitation Climatology Center continental rain gauge database is less than 10%. Over the ocean, the mean difference between SSM/I and the Legates and Willmott global shipboard rain gauge climatology is less than 20%.

Save