On the quantification of oceanic rainfall using spaceborne sensors

Behrangi, A., M. Lebsock, S. Wong, and B. Lambrigtsen (2012), On the quantification of oceanic rainfall using spaceborne sensors, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D20105, doi:10.1029/2012JD017979.

Much of our knowledge about oceanic rainfall comes from spaceborne sensors. These sensors provide direct or indirect information used for precipitation retrievals through various algorithms. A thorough understanding of rain frequency and intensity and its regional distribution, which is especially important in a warming climate, requires an evaluation of the performance of rain-measuring sensors and identification of strengths and limitations offered by each sensor. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has enabled significant advancement in quantification of moderate to intense rainfall. However, a common limitation of the current suite of rain-measuring sensors is their lack of sensitivity to light rainfall, especially over subtropical and high-latitude oceans. Among various spaceborne sensors, CloudSat enables superior retrieval of light rainfall and drizzle. By using 3 years (2007–2009) of rainfall data from CloudSat and the precipitation radar aboard TRMM, it was determined that the quasi-global (60 S–60 N) oceanic mean rain rate is about 3.05 mm/d, considerably larger than that obtained from any individual sensor product. In the deep tropics, especially within 20 S–20 N, the sensors show the highest agreement, with a large fraction of total rain volume captured by the majority of sensors. However, toward higher latitudes and within the subtropical high-pressure regions, a significant fraction of rainfall, which can exceed 50% or more of total rain volume, is missed by the majority of the sensors.

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