Assessing satellite-based precipitation estimates in the Southern Appalachian mountains using rain gauges and TRMM PR
- Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Pratt School of Engineering Duke University, Durham NC 27708, USA
Abstract. A study was performed using the first full year of rain gauge records from a newly deployed network in the Southern Appalachian mountains. This is a region characterized by complex topography with orographic rainfall enhancement up to 300% over small distances (<8 km). Rain gauge observations were used to assess precipitation estimates from the Precipitation Radar (PR) on board of the TRMM satellite, specifically the TRMM PR 2A25 precipitation product. Results show substantial differences between annual records and isolated events (e.g. tropical storm Fay). An overall bias of −27% was found between TRMM PR 2A25 rain rate and rain gauge rain rates for the complete one year of study (−59% for tropical storm Fay). Besides differences observed for concurrent observations by the satellite and the rain gauges, a large number of rainfall events is detected independently by either one of the observing systems alone (rain gauges: 50% of events are missed by TRMM PR; TRMM PR: 20% of events are not detected by the rain gauges), especially for light rainfall conditions (0.1–2mm/h) that account for more than 80% of all the missed satellite events. An exploratory investigation using a microphysical model along with TRMM reflectivity factors at selected heights was conducted to determine the shape of the drop size distribution (DSD) that can be applied to reduce the difference between TRMM estimates and rain gauge observations. The results suggest that the critical DSD parameter is the number concentration of very small drops. For tropical storm Fay an increase of one order of magnitude in the number of small drops is apparently needed to capture the observed rainfall rate regardless of the value of the measured reflectivity. This is consistent with DSD observations that report high concentrations of small and/or midsize drops in the case of tropical storms.