A Texture-Polarization Method for Estimating Convective–Stratiform Precipitation Area Coverage from Passive Microwave Radiometer Data

William S. Olson

Center for Earth Systems Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

Ye Hong

The Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles, California

Christian D. Kummerow

Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

Joseph Turk

Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California


Observational and modeling studies have revealed the relationships between convective–stratiform rain proportion and the vertical distributions of vertical motion, latent heating, and moistening in mesoscale convective systems. Therefore, remote sensing techniques that can be used to quantify the area coverage of convective or stratiform rainfall could provide useful information regarding the dynamic and thermodynamic processes in these systems. In the current study, two methods for deducing the area coverage of convective precipitation from satellite passive microwave radiometer measurements are combined to yield an improved method. If sufficient microwave scattering by ice-phase precipitation is detected, the method relies mainly on the degree of polarization in oblique-view, 85.5-GHz radiances to estimate the fraction of the radiometer footprint covered by convection. In situations where ice scattering is minimal, the method draws mostly on texture information in radiometer imagery at lower microwave frequencies to estimate the convective area fraction.

Based upon observations of 10 organized convective systems over ocean and nine systems over land, instantaneous, 0.5°-resolution estimates of convective area fraction from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) are compared with nearly coincident estimates from the TRMM precipitation radar (PR). TMI convective area fraction estimates are low-biased relative to PR estimates, with TMI–PR correlation coefficients of 0.78 and 0.84 over ocean and land surfaces, respectively. TMI monthly average convective area percentages in the Tropics and subtropics from February 1998 are greatest along the intertropical convergence zone and in the continental regions of the Southern (summer) Hemisphere. Although convective area percentages from the TMI are systematically lower than those derived from the PR, the monthly patterns of convective coverage are similar. Systematic differences in TMI and PR convective area percentages do not show any clear correlation or anticorrelation with differences in retrieved rain depths, and so discrepancies between TRMM version-5 TMI- and PR-retrieved rain depths are likely due to other sensor or algorithmic differences.