On the quantification of oceanic rainfall using spaceborne sensors

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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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