On the quantification of oceanic rainfall using spaceborne sensors

Ali Behrangi, Matthew Lebsock, Sun Wong, Bjorn Lambrigtsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Much of our knowledge about oceanic rainfall comes from spaceborne sensors. These sensors provide direct or indirect information used for precipitation retrievals through various algorithms. A thorough understanding of rain frequency and intensity and its regional distribution, which is especially important in a warming climate, requires an evaluation of the performance of rain-measuring sensors and identification of strengths and limitations offered by each sensor. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has enabled significant advancement in quantification of moderate to intense rainfall. However, a common limitation of the current suite of rain-measuring sensors is their lack of sensitivity to light rainfall, especially over subtropical and high-latitude oceans. Among various spaceborne sensors, CloudSat enables superior retrieval of light rainfall and drizzle. By using 3 years (2007-2009) of rainfall data from CloudSat and the precipitation radar aboard TRMM, it was determined that the quasi-global (60°S-60°N) oceanic mean rain rate is about 3.05 mm/d, considerably larger than that obtained from any individual sensor product. In the deep tropics, especially within 20S-20N, the sensors show the highest agreement, with a large fraction of total rain volume captured by the majority of sensors. However, toward higher latitudes and within the subtropical high-pressure regions, a significant fraction of rainfall, which can exceed 50% or more of total rain volume, is missed by the majority of the sensors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD20105
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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