Improving Global Analysis and Short–Range Forecast Using Rainfall and Moisture Observations Derived from TRMM and SSM/I Passive Microwave Sensors

Arthur Y. Hou, Sara Q. Zhang, Arlindo M. da Silva

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

William S. Olson

University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland

Christian D. Kummerow

Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

Joanne Simpson

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland


As a follow–on to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States, the National Space Development Agency of Japan, and the European Space Agency are considering a satellite mission to measure the global rainfall. The plan envisions an improved TRMM–like satellite and a constellation of eight satellites carrying passive microwave radiometers to provide global rainfall measurements at 3–h intervals. The success of this concept relies on the merits of rainfall estimates derived from passive microwave radiometers. This article offers a proof–of–concept demonstration of the benefits of using rainfall and total precipitable water (TPW) information derived from such instruments in global data assimilation with observations from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) and two Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) instruments.

Global analyses that optimally combine observations from diverse sources with physical models of atmospheric and land processes can provide a comprehensive description of the climate systems. Currently, such data analyses contain significant errors in primary hydrological fields such as precipitation and evaporation, especially in the Tropics. It is shown that assimilating the 6–h–averaged TMI and SSM/I surface rain rate and TPW retrievals improves not only the hydrological cycle but also key climate parameters such as clouds, radiation, and the upper–tropospheric moisture in the analysis produced by the Goddard Earth Observing System Data Assimilation System, as verified against radiation measurements by the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument and brightness temperature observations by the Television Infrared Observational Satellite Operational Vertical Sounder instruments.

Typically, rainfall assimilation improves clouds and radiation in areas of active convection, as well as the latent heating and large–scale motions in the Tropics, while TPW assimilation leads to reduced moisture biases and improved radiative fluxes in clear–sky regions. Ensemble forecasts initialized with analyses that incorporate TMI and SSM/I rainfall and TPW data also yield better short–range predictions of geopotential heights, winds, and precipitation in the Tropics.

These results were obtained using a variational procedure based on a 6–h time integration of a column model of moist physics with prescribed dynamical and other physical tendencies. The procedure estimates moisture tendency corrections at observation locations by minimizing the least square differences between the observed TPW and rain rates and those generated by the column model over a 6–h analysis window. These tendency corrections are then applied during the assimilation cycle to compensate for errors arising from both initial conditions and deficiencies in model physics. Our results point to the importance of addressing deficiencies in model physics in assimilating data types such as precipitation, for which the forward model based on convective parameterizations may have significant systematic errors.

This study offers a compelling illustration of the potential of using rainfall and TPW information derived from passive microwave instruments to significantly improve the quality of four–dimensional global datasets for climate analysis and weather forecasting applications.