A Passive Microwave Technique for Estimating Rainfall and Vertical Structure Information from Space. Part I: Algorithm Description

Christian Kummerow

Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Louis Giglio

Science Systems & Applications, Inc., Lanham, Maryland


This paper describes a multichannel physical approach for retrieving rainfall and vertical structure information from satellite-based passive microwave observations. The algorithm makes use of statistical inversion techniques based upon theoretically calculated relations between rainfall rates and brightness temperatures. Potential errors introduced into the theoretical calculations by the unknown vertical distribution of hydrometeors are overcome by explicitly accounting for diverse hydrometcor profiles. This is accomplished by allowing for a number of different vertical distributions in the theoretical brightness temperature calculations and requiring consistency between the observed and calculated brightness temperatures. This paper will focus primarily on the theoretical aspects of the retrieval algorithm, which includes a procedure used to account for inhomogeneities of the rainfall within the satellite field of view as well as a detailed description of the algorithm as it is applied over both ocean and land surfaces. The residual error between observed and calculated brightness temperatures is found to be an important quantity in assessing the uniqueness of the solution. At is further found that the residual error is a meaningful quantity that can be used to derive expected accuracies from this retrieval technique. Examples comparing the retrieved results as well as the detailed analysis of the algorithm performance under various circumstances are the subject of a companion paper.