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The Relationship between Large-Scale Convective Rainfall and Cold Cloud over the Western Hemisphere during 1982-84

Phillip A. ArkinClimate Analysis Center, National Meteorological Center, NMC/NWS/NOAA, Washington, DC 20233

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Bernard N. MeisnerDeparment of Meteorology, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX 77006

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Abstract

Estimates of areal- and time-averaged convective precipitation derived from geostationary satellite imagery using a simple thresholding technique are presented. The estimates are based on measurements of the monthly mean fraction of 2.5° × 2.5° areas covered by clouds whose equivalent blackbody temperature in infrared imagery is below 235 K. The transformation between fractional coverage and rainfall amount is based upon comparisons of fractional coverages using a variety of temperature thresholds and spatial and temporal averaging scales with areal averaged rainfall from the GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment.

Three-year means of the estimated precipitation for the period December 1981-November 1984 are shown for each of the (3-month) calendar seasons and compared with published descriptions of the long-term seasonal mean rainfall fields. Over the tropical oceans agreement is quite good with no evidence of any systematic errors. Over the Americas, long-term means derived from station observations of rainfall show less extensive areas of heavy rainfall than those derived here, and a slight tendency for lower peak values during the rainy season.

The interannual variability during the 3-yr period is described and compared with station observations of rainfall. The relationship between cloud cover and rainfall in the tropics (30d°N-30°S) is found to be similar to that found in previous studies, with a threshold of 235 K giving highest correlations, while observations between 30° and 50° were best correlated with a threshold of 220 K. The large changes in rainfall distribution over South America associated with the 1982-83 ENSO episode and the breaking of the drought in Northeast Brazil during 1984 are clear in the estimates presented here, but the amplitude of the changes is somewhat over-estimated. Warm season rainfall observed over the United States is less than the estimates, except near the Gulf of Mexico and southeast United States coast where the degree of overestimation increases away from the coast.

Abstract

Estimates of areal- and time-averaged convective precipitation derived from geostationary satellite imagery using a simple thresholding technique are presented. The estimates are based on measurements of the monthly mean fraction of 2.5° × 2.5° areas covered by clouds whose equivalent blackbody temperature in infrared imagery is below 235 K. The transformation between fractional coverage and rainfall amount is based upon comparisons of fractional coverages using a variety of temperature thresholds and spatial and temporal averaging scales with areal averaged rainfall from the GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment.

Three-year means of the estimated precipitation for the period December 1981-November 1984 are shown for each of the (3-month) calendar seasons and compared with published descriptions of the long-term seasonal mean rainfall fields. Over the tropical oceans agreement is quite good with no evidence of any systematic errors. Over the Americas, long-term means derived from station observations of rainfall show less extensive areas of heavy rainfall than those derived here, and a slight tendency for lower peak values during the rainy season.

The interannual variability during the 3-yr period is described and compared with station observations of rainfall. The relationship between cloud cover and rainfall in the tropics (30d°N-30°S) is found to be similar to that found in previous studies, with a threshold of 235 K giving highest correlations, while observations between 30° and 50° were best correlated with a threshold of 220 K. The large changes in rainfall distribution over South America associated with the 1982-83 ENSO episode and the breaking of the drought in Northeast Brazil during 1984 are clear in the estimates presented here, but the amplitude of the changes is somewhat over-estimated. Warm season rainfall observed over the United States is less than the estimates, except near the Gulf of Mexico and southeast United States coast where the degree of overestimation increases away from the coast.

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