Rain Retrieval from TMI Brightness Temperature Measurements Using a TRMM PR-Based Database

Nicolas Viltard, Corrine Burlaud

Centre d'Études des Environnements Terrestre et Planétaires, Vélizy, France

Christian D. Kummerow

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


This study focuses on improving the retrieval of rain from measured microwave brightness temperatures and the capability of the retrieved field to represent the mesoscale structure of a small intense hurricane. For this study, a database is constructed from collocated Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) precipitation radar (PR) and the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) data resulting in about 50 000 brightness temperature vectors associated with their corresponding rain-rate profiles. The database is then divided in two: a retrieval database of about 35 000 rain profiles and a test database of about 25 000 rain profiles. Although in principle this approach is used to build a database over both land and ocean, the results presented here are only given for ocean surfaces, for which the conditions for the retrieval are optimal. An algorithm is built using the retrieval database. This algorithm is then used on the test database, and results show that the error can be constrained to reasonable levels for most of the observed rain ranges. The relative error is nonetheless sensitive to the rain rate, with maximum errors at the low and high ends of the rain intensities (+60% and -30%, respectively) and a minimum error between 1 and 7 mm h-1. The retrieval method is optimized to exhibit a low total bias for climatological purposes and thus shows a high standard deviation on point-to-point comparisons. The algorithm is applied to the case of Hurricane Bret (1999). The retrieved rain field is analyzed in terms of structure and intensity and is then compared with the TRMM PR original rain field. The results show that the mesoscale structures are indeed well reproduced even if the retrieved rain misses the highest peaks of precipitation. Nevertheless, the mesoscale asymmetries are well reproduced and the maximum rain is found in the correct quadrant. Once again, the total bias is low, which allows for future calculation of the heat sources/sinks associated with precipitation production and evaporation.