Combined Cloud-Microwave Radiative Transfer Modeling of Stratiform Rainfall

Peter Bauer

German Remote Sensing Data Center, German Aerospace Center, Cologne, Germany

A. Khain and A. Pokrovsky

Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

R. Meneghini and C. Kummerow

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

F. Marzano

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Elettrica, Universita dell Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy

J. P. V. Poiares Baptista

Electromagnetics Division, European Space Agency/ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands


The simulation of explicit particle spectra during cloud evolution by a two-dimensional spectral cloud model was used to investigate the response of microwave radiative transfer to particle spectra development with special focus on the radiative effects of melting particles below the freezing level. For this purpose, 1) a particle-melting model was implemented with increased vertical resolution; 2) several models of the dielectric permittivity for melting particles were compared; 3) the dependence on size–density distributions was evaluated; and 4) the influence on the results by the replacement of explicit by parameterized particle spectra was tested.

Radiative transfer simulations over ocean background at frequencies between 10.7 and 85.5 GHz showed a considerable increase in brightness temperatures (TB) once melting particles were included. The amounts were strongly dependent on the implemented permittivity model, the number concentrations of large frozen particles right above the freezing level, and the local cloud conditions. Assuming a random mixture of air, ice, and meltwater in the particle, TBs increased by up to 30 K (at 37.0 GHz) in the stratiform cloud portion for nadir view. If the meltwater was taken to reside at the particle boundaries, unrealistic TB changes were produced at all frequencies. This led to the conclusion that for large tenuous snowflakes the random-mixture model seems most appropriate, while for small and dense particles a nonuniform water distribution may be realistic. The net melting effect on simulated TBs, however, depended strongly on attenuation by supercooled liquid water above the freezing level, which generally suppressed the signal at 85.5 GHz. Over land background, changes in TB due to melting particles remained below 8 K, which would be difficult to identify compared to variations in surface emission and cloud profile heterogeneity.

Replacement of the explicit particle spectra for rain, snow, and graupel by parameterized spectra (here, in exponential form with a fixed intercept) produced reductions of the melting signature by up to 40% over ocean. It was found that exponential size distribution formulas tended to underestimate number concentrations of large particles and overestimated those of small particles at those cloud levels where sufficient particle sedimentation leads to collection, aggregation, and evaporation, respectively. Consequently, the strongest differences between explicit and parameterized spectra occurred right above the freezing level for snow and graupel, and close to the surface for rain. Radiometrically, this resulted in an underestimation of scattering above the freezing level and an underestimation of emission by melting particles below the freezing level as well as by rain toward the surface. In the stratiform region, the net effect was a reduction of the melting signature; however, TB’s were still up to 15 K higher than from the no-melting case for the random-mixture permittivity model.