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Investigation of discrepancies in satellite rainfall estimates over Ethiopia

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Young, M. P., Williams, C. J. R., Chiu, J. C., Maidment, R. and Chen, S.-H. (2014) Investigation of discrepancies in satellite rainfall estimates over Ethiopia. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 15. pp. 2347-2369. ISSN 1525-7541

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-13-0111.1

Abstract/Summary

Tropical Applications of Meteorology Using Satellite and Ground-Based Observations (TAMSAT) rainfall estimates are used extensively across Africa for operational rainfall monitoring and food security applications; thus, regional evaluations of TAMSAT are essential to ensure its reliability. This study assesses the performance of TAMSAT rainfall estimates, along with the African Rainfall Climatology (ARC), version 2; the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 product; and the Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH), against a dense rain gauge network over a mountainous region of Ethiopia. Overall, TAMSAT exhibits good skill in detecting rainy events but underestimates rainfall amount, while ARC underestimates both rainfall amount and rainy event frequency. Meanwhile, TRMM consistently performs best in detecting rainy events and capturing the mean rainfall and seasonal variability, while CMORPH tends to overdetect rainy events. Moreover, the mean difference in daily rainfall between the products and rain gauges shows increasing underestimation with increasing elevation. However, the distribution in satellite–gauge differences demon- strates that although 75% of retrievals underestimate rainfall, up to 25% overestimate rainfall over all eleva- tions. Case studies using high-resolution simulations suggest underestimation in the satellite algorithms is likely due to shallow convection with warm cloud-top temperatures in addition to beam-filling effects in microwave- based retrievals from localized convective cells. The overestimation by IR-based algorithms is attributed to nonraining cirrus with cold cloud-top temperatures. These results stress the importance of understanding re- gional precipitation systems causing uncertainties in satellite rainfall estimates with a view toward using this knowledge to improve rainfall algorithms.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:38559
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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