Evaluation of precipitation detection over various surfaces from passive...

Munchak, S. J., and G. S. Jackson (2013), Evaluation of precipitation detection over various surfaces from passive microwave imagers and sounders, Atmos. Res., doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2012.10.011.

During the middle part of this decade, a wide variety of passive microwave imagers and sounders will be unified in the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission to provide a common basis for frequent (3 h) global precipitation monitoring. The ability of these sensors to detect precipitation by discerning it from non-precipitating background depends upon the channels available and characteristics of the surface and atmosphere. This study quantifies the minimum detectable precipitation rate and fraction of precipitation detected for four representative instruments (TMI, GMI, AMSU-A, and AMSU-B) that will be part of the GPM constellation. Observations for these instruments were constructed from equivalent channels on the SSMIS instrument on DMSP satellites F16 and F17 and matched to precipitation data from NOAA's National Mosaic and QPE (NMQ) during 2009 over the continuous United States. A variational optimal estimation retrieval of non-precipitation surface and atmosphere parameters was used to determine the consistency between the observed brightness temperatures and these parameters, with high cost function values shown to be related to precipitation. The minimum detectable precipitation rate, defined as the lowest rate for which probability of detection exceeds 50%, and the detected fraction of precipitation are reported for each sensor, surface type (ocean, coast, bare land, snow cover) and precipitation type (rain, mix, snow). The best sensors over ocean and bare land were GMI (0.22 mm h −1 minimum threshold and 90% of precipitation detected) and AMSU (0.26 mm h − 1 minimum threshold and 81% of precipitation detected), respectively. Over coasts (0.74 mm h −1 threshold and 12% detected) and snow-covered surfaces (0.44 mm h −1 threshold and 23% detected), AMSU again performed best but with much lower detection skill, whereas TMI had no skill over these surfaces. The sounders (particularly over water) benefited from the use of re-analysis data (vs. climatology) to set the a priori atmospheric state and all instruments benefited from the use of a conditional snow cover emissivity database over land. It is recommended that real-time sources of these data be used in the operational GPM precipitation algorithms.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Global Precipitation Measurement