Algorithms for the Retrieval of Rainfall from Passive Microwave Measurements

T. Wilheit, et al.

Department of Meteorology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-3150


The retrieval of rainfall intensity from radiances measured by spaceborne microwave radiometers can be understood in terms of well established physics. At frequencies below about 40 GHz over an ocean background the relationship between the rainfall and the observations is particularly well understood. In this part of the spectrum, the radiances are principally determined by the liquid hydrometeors with only a modest amount of ambiguity. In very intense convection, ice aloft may increase this ambiguity somewhat. At high frequencies, such as the 85.5 GHz channel of the SSM/I, scattering by the frozen hydrometeors becomes more significant and quantitative rainfall retrieval becomes more problematic. In spite of the ambiguities the use of the higher frequencies is desirable on a number of counts including: applicability over land, spatial resolution and dynamic range.

A total of 16 algorithms were submitted for the PIP-1. These include algorithms that are based on high frequency (emission) mieasruements with a few combinations and variations on these themes. The calibration of the algorithms varies from mostly empirical to essentially first principles with most falling somewhere in between. All of the algorithms retrieved rainfall and one also retrieved a profile of the liquid and frozen hydrometeors.