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Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
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Global Precipitation Measurement mission
(last update: June 23, 2010)

The TRMM satellite will be running out of fuel in the next couple of years. In order to build on its successes, NASA and JAXA have decided to launch a pair of follow-on satellites starting as early as 2013, and architect them along with other platforms carrying precipitation-sensitive radiometers into a constellation of satellites that can detect, estimate and monitor precipitation globally. Dubbed the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, its main objectives are

  • to expand the coverage from the tropics to latitudes as high as ±67o.
  • to improve the sampling frequency so that an updated global rain map can be produced every three hours.
  • to measure not just bulk water content but, in addition, the spatial variability of the main physical characteristics of precipitation.
One of these satellites, the "core", will carry a dual-frequency precipitation radar as well as a multi-channel microwave imager, and will fly at a low resolution-enhancing altitude. The measurements made by the core satellite will therefore be the most detailed of any remote-sensing system to date. The job of the "core reference algorithm working group" is to extract as much information from these simultaneous measurements as possible. What follows is a discussion of the main issues that are being addressed by the algorithm developers at JPL.

Our task is to make the best use of the core satellite's measurements to produce estimates of the instantaneous rain field (at least means and covariances, and possibly additional details about the nature of the uncertainties) within the field of view of the core satellite's instruments. The latter will include a TMI-like radiometer ("GMI") with a few higher-frequency channels, a TRMM-like 14-GHz radar, and a new 35-GHz radar whose beams match the 14 GHz radar.

Since the swaths of the different instruments will be different, in order to "make the best use of the measurements" one must consider 3 portions of the largest swath (the GMI's):

  • A: the region illuminated by the 14 and 35 GHz radars,
  • B: the region illuminated by the 14 GHz radar only
  • C: the region seen only by the GMI
The main issues are what top-level approach to take, what specific algorithm-development activities are required for each step of the approach, and what validation analyses are required to justify the assumptions/omissions in the various portions of the algorithm and to describe the expected uncertainties in the estimates.

The flow chart of the reference algorithm and a brief summary are provided at the end of the discussion.

How can one best estimate means and covariances from these combinations of measurements?
(or, should one start with radiances then incorporate the radar, or the other way around?)

The simplest way to determine how best to estimate means and covariances from a combination of instruments while retaining mathematical rigor is to use the Bayesian context. Specifically, let's lump together all the rain variables that we want to estimate within one radar beam into a single vector called R, consisting of the rain mixing-ratio profiles, some information about Drop Size Distribution (DSD) profiles such as the mean drop sizes, and eventually some information about cloud liquid water. Let us also assume for now that we will have a reasonable estimate of the freezing level so that one will know when to interpret "rain" as snow, "DSD" as frozen hydrometeor size distribution, and "cloud liquid water" as cloud ice (though I seriously doubt that we will be able to say anything about the latter with any confidence).

Let's similarly lump together all the measured radar reflectivities within a given radar beam into a single vector called Z (so, in case A, Z consists of 14-GHz and 35-GHz reflectivity profiles and the two Path-Integrated Attenuations PIA's, whether derived by reference to the surface over the ocean or through ancillary global soil moisture and roughness measurements over land; Z consists only of the 14-GHz reflectivities and PIA in case B; and it is empty in case C). And let's call T the vector of measured brightness temperatures (allow me to be vague for now about what exactly is in T, though it should definitely contains the STAR radiances if they are available). In this notation, the challenge is to apply Bayes's rule to calculate the probability density function

Q = p(R | Z,T)
or, more precisely, its mean and covariance. One can proceed in two ways.

One way is the "radiometer first" approach and goes as follows:

Q = p( Z | R, T) . p( R | T)
= p( Z | R, T) . p( T | R) . p( R)
~ GC(z)( Z - z(R;T)) . GC(t)( T - t(R)) . p( R)     

(where "p(...|... )" is short-hand for the probability density function of whatever is to the left of the "|" conditioned on (i.e. given) whatever is to the right of it, and where, in the last equation, G represents the 0-mean Gaussian (or log-normal, where more appropriate) distribution, with the covariance matrix as a subscript). The first equation is obtained by "leaving T in the background" and applying Bayes's rule to R and Z (that gets the reflectivities out of the way, i.e. to be incorporated last, and concentrates on getting some info about R from T first); to go from the first line to the second, apply Bayes's rule to the second factor on the right. The final expression, read from right to left, says the following: start with an a priori database of the allowable R's, compare the radiances associated to each one with the measured radiances (t(R) is short-hand for the forward-radiative-transfer calculated brightness temperatures to be associated with a candidate scenario R), then compare the reflectivities associated to each R with the measured Z (in the first term, z(R;T) represents the reflectivities calculated for each R with the help of T to whatever extent the radiances are useful in calculating the reflectivities). One might be able to simplify () by combining the first two factors, though great care must be taken in doing so as Z and T are not independent (if for no other reason than the fact that the reflectivities and the lower-frequency radiances are strongly correlated with the PIA's).

As the 3 terms in the final equation indicate, for this approach to work one must figure out

  • 0: how to build a representative database whose role is to provide the a priori probabilities p( R), or equivalently (and more practically) to define the allowable R's
  • 1: how to calculate the radiances t(R) associated to R, as well as the two-component covariance matrix C(t) which represents not only the uncertainties in the calculated t's (that's the first component of C) but also the margin of error one can tolerate because of the noise in T (the second component of C).
  • 2: how to calculate the mean reflectivities (and PIA's) z(R;T) associated to R (and T), as well as the covariance matrix C(z) which itself is the sum of the uncertainties in the calculated z's (including errors due to poor resolution etc) and of the noise in Z.

The other approach to calculate Q (the "radar first" approach) goes as follows:

Q = p( T | R, Z) . p( R | Z)
= p( R | Z) . p( T | R,Z)
~ GC(r)( (R0 - r0(Z)) | R1) . GC(t)( T - t(r0(Z),R1)) . p( R1)     

This time, the first equation is obtained by "leaving Z in the background" and applying Bayes's rule to R and T (this gets the radiances out of the way, to be incorporated last, and concentrates on extracting all the information that Z carries about R first); the second line is identical to the first except the two terms have been interchanged (so that it will be easier to compare the two approaches). The final expression, read from left to right, says the following: start by inverting the reflectivities Z into as much information as possible about R, or more precisely about that subset R0 of R consisting of the variables that the radar is most sensitive to and can best constrain (those would be the rain mixing-ratio profiles and the mean drop size profiles in case A, just the rain mixing-ratio profiles in case B), then, calling R1 the remaining rain variables (essentially the spread of the drop size spectrum and the deviation of the cloud water from the prescribed mean in case A, while in case B these "remaining variables" would consist mainly of the mean drop size), synthesize the expected radiances for the different possible values of R1 and compare with the measured brightness temperatures, and finally average over the a priori distribution of the variables R1 which the radar could not help constrain.

For this approach to be consistent, care must be taken in subsetting the rain vector R so that the "core" rain variables R0 (essentially the rain mixing ratios) are independent from the additional rain variables R1 -- this is best accomplished by defining the non-mixing-ratio variables in the first place so that their (mean) correlation with the rain concentrations is "factored out". Once this is done, for this approach to work, one must figure out

  • 3: how to invert a profile of reflectivities Z into a mean rain mixing-ratio profile (and a mean drop size profile in case A) r0(Z), as well as how to calculate the covariance matrix C(r) representing the uncertainty in the inversion (due to the noise in Z as well as to the sources of error unaccounted for in R1)
  • 1': how to calculate the radiances t(r0(Z),R1) associated to r0(Z) and R1, along with the two components of the corresponding covariance matrix C(t) (namely the uncertainties in the calculated t's, and the noise in T)
  • 4: the a priori distribution of the "detail" rain variables R1

Since there are two ways to proceed to calculate Q, the main question has to be: how different are the two approaches, and which is better suited in what portion of the swath?

The answer is clear in region C, the "outer swath". Since no radar measurements are available in that case, and since the "radar first" approach depends crucially on extracting detailed information from the radar before comparing with the radiometer, the only option is the "radiometer first" approach. One simply ignores the first term in equation () (this amounts to letting its covariance matrix "tend to infinity", i.e. one re-interprets the non-existence of any radar measurements as the existence of infinitely variable noise) and one must rely on the a priori database, its pre-computed (mean) radiances, and their covariances, to weigh each candidate scenario according to how closely it matches the measured radiances.

Because the "radiometer first" approach is the only one available in case C, and if for no other reason than continuity across swath boundaries, one would tend to prefer the same approach for the remaining cases. Any reasons not to do so would have to stem from drawbacks that are not shared by the "radar first" approach. And indeed there are three such drawbacks.

The first is in the a priori probabilities, represented in both cases by the third factor in the equations above. Specifically, equation () relies strongly on an a priori database, which is assumed to contain all allowed rain scenarios, in proportions that are representative of actual precipitation. While equation () similarly makes an a priori assumption, the latter specifically does not concern the rain mixing ratios; rather, it has to do with the a priori distribution of those precipitation parameters that cannot be constrained by the radar (the rain-decorrelated DSD parameters in case B, the second-order rain-decorrelated DSD parameters and the rain-adjusted cloud liquid mixing ratio in case A).

The second drawback has to do with the amount of detail that can be kept in incorporating the radar measurements, represented by the first factor in the equations above. Specifically, equation () requires that the radar reflectivities be synthesized from one's candidate rain scenarios. Since these are produced by a cloud-resolving model, they have a very coarse vertical resolution, and are therefore incapable of synthesizing reflectivities on a resolution as fine as that of the radar measurements. This is in contrast with equation (), which specifically requires that the radar profiles be inverted into rain mixing-ratio profiles, at the same fine resolution as the radar measurements.

The third drawback is the detection problem. Indeed, the discussion so far has centered exclusively on estimating the rain, assuming that rain was properly detected in the first place. However, it is of course impossible to make quantitative estimates if one is not confident of having detected precipitation. With the radars, this process is well understood in general: once the receiver operating characteristic is determined, one need only specify a tolerable false-alarm probability to obtain a detection threshold for any individual range bin. In our particular application however, the problem is not so much to detect for each individual range bin as it is to detect precipitation in the beam as a whole, and to subsequently specify its "top" and "bottom" ranges (since, aside from false-alarm rates for individual bins, an important concern is to avoid unrealistic results such as rain disappearing and re-appearing haphazardly as one moves consecutively from bin to bin within a given beam). These concerns have been addressed quite successfully by the TRMM radar group. On the other hand, in the case of the passive radiometers, the brightness temperatures are not as directly sensitive to precipitation per se, though rule-based screens have been rather successfully used starting with SSM/I to detect precipitation over the ocean. However even in that case, the discrepancy between the TRMM's PR and TMI detections is large, even at high rain rates. Part of that discrepancy is no doubt due to the different geometries and passage times of the two instruments. Still, the passive radiometer screens have not been as rigorously justified as the radar detection thresholds. In practical terms, the "radiometer first" approach could well encounter cases where rain is detected and preliminarily inverted according to the radiometer measurements, only to find that the radar signals are all noise and therefore provide no information to complete the estimation.

For these reasons, the "radiometer first" approach has to be implemented in region C, and the "radar first" approach has to be preferred in region A. While the latter might seem the more suitable approach for region B too, the continuity argument would dictate that both approaches be implemented there. This will help us better understand the effect on the estimates of the a priori assumptions and of the mismatching resolutions.

What algorithms need to be developed, implemented and tested?
(and, specifically, will SRT be used?)

The previous section already lists the specific algorithm developments that will be required. Here they are again:

  • 1: a procedure to calculate the radiances t(R) associated to R, as well as the two components of the covariance matrix C(t) (the uncertainties in the calculated t's and the margin of error one can tolerate because of the noise in T.
  • 1': a procedure to calculate the radiances t(r0(Z),R1) associated to r0(Z) and R1, along with the corresponding covariance matrix C(t).
  • 2: a procedure to calculate the mean reflectivities (and PIA) z(R;T) associated to R (and T), as well as the covariance matrix C(z) (uncertainties in the calculated z's + noise in Z).
  • 3: a procedure to invert a profile of reflectivities Z into a mean rain mixing-ratio profile (and a mean drop size profile in case A) r0(Z), along with the covariance matrix C(r).
Item 1 is also a requirement for the radiometers. Several forward radiative transfer models with varying degrees of realism are available to calculate off-line the mean radiances one would expect from a given precipitation profile. The derivation of a precipitation-dependent covariance matrix that effectively translates the uncertainties in the input precipitation profile into realistic second-order uncertainties in the radiances is a significantly more difficult task. Fortunately, it too is the main focus of the radiometer algorithm developers, and therefore need not be discussed further in this section.

The only difference between item 1' and item 1 is the fact that, in this case, the radiances need to be computed in real time, possibly at different incidence angles (in the case of STAR). This will require the development of a scheme to parametrize sufficiently accurately the forward radiative transfer calculations in order to produce a virtual (or actual) look-up table which efficiently associates to a set of precipitation variables (and given "background" clear-air temperatures) the corresponding brightness temperatures at the required frequencies, polarizations and incidence angles.

Item 2 seems to require merely that one be able to synthesize radar reflectivities and attenuations from a given rain profile (i.e. it appears one only needs so-called "Z-R" and "k-R" relations). In fact, the problem is more subtle than that, because one must also assume that one is given the corresponding radiances as well. This important detail makes the problem tricky, because the low-frequency radiances are highly correlated with the expected PIA, and therefore the assumption that the radiances are specified (and equal to the ones measured) is almost equivalent to assuming that the PIA is given, up to a not-too-large uncertainty. This directly translates into a constraint on the DSD. In other words, the radar reflectivities (and PIA) have to be synthesized from the given database precipitation profile and under the DSD constraints placed by the given radiances.

There is one further reason why the forward calculation of the radar reflectivities is somewhat more difficult than it appears, and that is the vertical inhomogeneity. Since the input rain variables come from a "cloud-resolving" simulation, they represent averages over several hundred vertical meters. At 14 GHz, the attenuation coefficient of rain is proportional to the rain rate, and equals about 2 dB/km at mixing ratios of about 1 g/m3. This implies that, already at moderately high rain rates, the radar return from the bottom of a 1-km thick layer can easily be 60% weaker ( ~ -2x2 dB attenuation) than the return from the top of the same layer. Such differences can be accounted for in the forward calculation by properly averaging the two-way attenuation within a given range bin.

To complete item 2, one must calculate the covariance matrix of the reflectivity profile given the rain profile. Analyses of the TRMM data have shown that the vertical reflectivities are far from mutually independent; in fact, 90% of the vertical variability of the sub-freezing-level 14 GHz reflectivities can be accounted for by the first 4 principal components. This strongly suggests that a diagonal (sum of the square differences) comparison of the first 4 principal components should be sufficient to approximate the pdf reasonably accurately. This observation solves the problem of the mismatched resolutions (since the first 4 principal components are linear combinations of the 1-km average reflectivities), and it reduces the covariance problem to one of estimating the conditional variances of each of the principal components, conditioned on the rain profiles (and DSD information). This task will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

Finally, item 3 represents one of the most important aspects of the algorithm development effort, since it entails the development of a dual-frequency radar profiling algorithm (for use within the inner swath). The main idea behind using two radar channels is to exploit the difference in the attenuation at the two frequencies to help identify the underlying drop size distribution as well as the rain mixing ratio. Indeed, figure 1 shows the ratios of a drop's actual (Mie) radar back-scattering cross-section to that approximated by the Rayleigh assumption ( ~ D6 for a drop of diameter D), and verifies that at both frequencies the Rayleigh assumption is quite adequate for most of the raindrop size range. However, as figure 2 shows, the extinction cross section quickly diverges from Rayleigh ( ~ D3) for drop diameters greater than 1 mm, and does so in significantly different ways at the two frequencies. These observations lead one to expect that, while the radar returns from very light rain (which consists mainly of small drops) will not be appreciably different at the two frequencies, the returns from more significant rain will be exploitably different, largely due to the different characteristics of the attenuation, and this difference should allow one to estimate the rain mixing ratio as well as to characterize the drop size distribution to first order (e.g. by estimating the mean drop diameter), as a function of height.

Before proceeding with the details of this portion of the algorithm, it is important to identify the specific variables that will be estimated and which up to this point have been conveniently hidden under the label R = (R0, R1). In the inner swath (case A), R0 consists of the rain mixing-ratio MR and mean drop-diameter profiles D0 (i.e. a pair of variables per radar range bin), while R1 consists of the 35-GHz surface backscattering cross-section along with the rain-normalized cloud water content "deviation" Cdev, defined as follows: call µ the correlation coefficient of the natural logarithms of the cloud water mixing ratio ln(Mc) and the rain mixing ratio ln(MR) within a bin inside the cloud, and define the new variable Cdev as Cdev = Mc/MR µ, so that ln(Cdev) and ln(MR) are by definition uncorrelated. The correlation coefficient µ will need to be estimated off-line, and may turn out to depend on a range bin's relative altitude between the bottom of the cloud and the freezing level (as well as on the rain regime, maritime vs continental etc).

The reason and Cdev must be singled out as the main complementary variables to the rain variables R0 = (MR, D0) is that cloud absorption is expected to have a significant impact on the radar reflectivities. Because cloud water droplets are very small relative to both wavelengths, their reflectivity is negligible. For the same reason, however, the attenuation coefficient due to cloud water kc is proportional to the cloud water mixing ratio Mc: at 14 GHz, 0.14 < kc/Mc < 0.2 (if Mc is expressed in g/m3 and k is in dB/km); at 35 GHz, 0.83 < kc/Mc < 1.4. For example, even a very dense cloud, carrying 2 g/m3 of water, will absorb the 14 GHz signal at a rate of only 0.28 to 0.4 dB/km (depending on the proportion of large droplets). By contrast, the same cloud will absorb the 35 GHz signal at a rate of up to 2.8 dB/km, a very large attenuation that would cause serious biases in the estimation if it is not properly accounted for. That is what the variable Cdev will accomplish. In addition to the rainy regions, the non-precipitating clouds in "clear" areas will typically remain undetected (because their droplets are small), but their attenuation will "cast a shadow" on the surface, thereby making it harder to estimate the integrated 35-GHz attenuation over the ocean by comparing the rainy surface return with any averaged "clear-air" (yet possibly cloudy) returns. A priori, the magnitude of this additional uncertainty could be comparable to the cloud effect within the rain. That is the reason why we need to define a variable, , specifically to reduce this uncertainty.

While water vapor will have a non-negligible attenuating effect at 35 GHz (up to 0.2 dB/km at the surface), it is assumed that the temperature data available for each retrieval will be sufficiently accurate to determine the height of the bottom of the cloud. Since it is reasonable to assume 100% relative humidity within the cloud, the errors that the water-vapor variability will cause should be negligibly small.

We are finally ready to describe the main part of this algorithm, namely the inversion of the reflectivity profiles Z14 and Z35 into profiles of MR and D0, with the help of the measured PIA's, and of variables and Cdev representing the error in the surface back-scattering cross section and in the cloud liquid water. The measurements and unknowns are related at each range bin by simple equations:

Z14 = z 14(MR,D0) . A+14
Z35 = z 35(MR,D0) . A+35 . Ao35 (Cdev)
in which
  • the functions z 14(MR,D0) and z 35(MR,D0) represent the average attenuated reflectivity factor for the given range bin -- they can be forward calculated by approximate "(Z,k)-R" relations or, indeed, retrieved from a look-up table calculated more accurately off-line.
  • the factors A+14 and A+35 represent the accumulated attenuation from higher layers
  • the factor Ao35 (Cdev) represents the accumulated attenuation due to cloud and water vapor.
Clearly, the functions z14 and z35 will depend somewhat on one's DSD model. Figure 3 illustrates their behavior for the DSD parametrization used in the TRMM combined algorithm. The horizontal axis represents z14, the vertical z35 - z14. The region spanned by the black dots represents the range of the functions (z14(MR,D0), z35(MR,D0)), each dot being the target of a single (MR,D0) pair. The red dots represent that part of the range that gets "hit" twice: these are the measurements that cannot be unambiguously inverted. As noted above, they correspond to low mixing ratio, where the drops are simply too small to behave significantly differently at the two frequencies. Unfortunately, most precipitation starts out with lower mixing ratios at the top of the rainy column. To avoid these ambiguities, one can start at the surface and proceed upward. The equations can then be re-written as

Z14 / PIA14 = z14(MR,D0) . A-14()
Z35 / PIA35 = z35(MR,D0) . A-35() . Ax35 (Cdev)
where the excess attenuation now depends on how good one's estimate of the PIA is, i.e. on . In any case, the system can be solved at each range bin using one's look-up table (or other approximate forward expression expressing the z's in terms of MR and D0), and successively updating the balance of the attenuations for the next range bin.

When the ancillary temperature data implies that the precipitation must consist of frozen hydrometeor, the same procedure still applies, as long as one interprets MR as the graupel/aggregates/snow mixing ratio (the altitude and measured reflectivities can help in identifying the appropriate type), and D0 as the hydrometeor mean equivalent diameter (at both radar frequencies, the assumptions that the hydrometeors are spheres should be adequate). The uncertainty in the hydrometeor type and density will have to be accounted for in the covariance matrices.

Indeed, there remains to describe the procedure to calculate the covariance matrix C(r). To do that, the sources of uncertainty that have not been explicitly included in the variables R = (R0, R1) must be identified, and their effect must then be quantified as the entries of the matrix C(r). The sources of uncertainty that one can easily identify a priori are

  1. the inexactness of the DSD representation, i.e. the higher-order moments of the DSD that would be needed, in addition to D0 (and MR) to determine exactly the measured-reflectivity model functions z14(MR,D0) and z35(MR,D0)
  2. the inhomogeneity of the precipitation within the volume of an individual range bin (the so-called non-uniform beam-filling problem).
  3. the variability of the water vapor mixing ratio, especially below the base of the cloud.
  4. the practical implementation of the inversion, which would propagate any error upward or downward, in a way which would depend on the details of the specific procedure implemented (numerical instabilities etc).
If the relation between the radar reflectivites and the underlying precipitation, compactly represented by the functions z14 and z35, were linear, item 2 would disappear (and a Kalman filtering implementation would efficiently determine the diagonal elements of C(r) along with the mean R0). However, the radar-rain relations are highly non-linear, and we do need to estimate all the covariances. The simplest (if somewhat labor-intensive) way to accomplish this is through off-line simulations using high-resolution measurements of precipitation (such as the data gathered during the TRMM field campaigns): by synthetically varying the uncertainties 1 through 4, one can apply one's inversion procedure and compile the second-order statistics of the resulting estimates. These would form one's estimate of the covariance matrix C. Since the latter is expected to vary significantly depending on the type and amount of precipitation, the probelm would then be to index C in such a way that the pre-computed covariances that are appropriate to a particular beam can be identified in real-time. Obviously, the best way to do this is to index C using the full precipitation profile. In practice, that would be prohibitively resource-intensive, since it would amount to compiling huge multi-dimensional look-up tables, which would in any case be impossible to search efficiently. Fortunately, the data from TRMM strongly suggests that vertical rain profiles are not highly variable. Indeed, as we noted in the discussion of the covariance matrix in item 2 above, the first 4 principal components of the 250-m rain rate profiles estimated by TRMM's radar account for over 90% of the vertical variability in the precipitation. While this result is based on imperfect single-radar-frequency estimates rather than exact in-situ measurements of the rain mixing ratios themselves, the TRMM radar estimates have been sufficiently scrutinized to allow one to assert that they are reasonably representative of at least the vertical variability of tropical rain. Therefore, one can group one's simulations according to the corresponding values of the 4 principal components R'1, ... , R'4 (based on the TRMM data, the first turns out to be essentially the vertical average of the rain rate, the second is the difference between the average above 2.5 km and the average below 2.5 km, etc), and thus index the covariance matrix C(R'1, ... , R'4) using 4 easy-to-compute quantities.

Last, we describe the inversion in the intermediate swath. In this case (B), the definitions of both R0 and R1 need to be scaled back, because we have fewer measurements (for example, it is simply unrealistic to expect a single-frequency radar to shed any light on vertical details of the drop size distribution), and because these measurements are much less sensitive to variables such as cloud water and vapor. In this case, R0 consists of the rain mixing ratio profiles, while R1 consists of the rain-adjusted mean drop diameter D' (defined just like Cdev above). Essentially, D' can be viewed as the parameter which specifies a (Z,k)-R relation.

This case is essentially identical to the case of TRMM, and we therefore intend to use the tried-and-tested radar inversion algorithm used for TRMM's PR. As equation () specifies, we need to start with an a priori distribution of D' ( = R1). The latter will be used to reduce the uncertainty in the measured PIA (since, given a DSD, i.e. given a value of D', the PIA can be directly expressed as an integral of the measured reflectivities, say ZIA(D')). By comparing the ZIA(D')'s to the measured PIA, a preliminary constraint on D' is obtained, as well as a hopefully sharper estimate of the PIA itself (at this stage, the two become essentially equivalent). Finally, for each value of this "D'/PIA" parameter, the reflectivity profile is inverted into a rain profile, and the mean profile is obtained by averaging according to the conditional density of D'/PIA. This is very much like the procedure followed in the case of TRMM.

One important source of uncertainty was ignored in this intermediate case, and that is the vertical variability of the DSD. The latter will be accounted for in the covariance matrix using off-line forward simulations exactly as described in the previous case (A).

What detailed studies will be required to validate the assumptions in the algorithm?
(or, what do we need to figure out between now and launch to fill the holes in the algorithm?)

The first section identified two specific activities that are key to justifying the assumptions in the algorithm, namely

  • 0: building a representative database whose role is to provide the a priori probabilities p( R), or equivalently (and more practically) to define the allowable R's.
  • 4: determining the a priori distribution of the "detail" rain variables R1
In the previous section we identified a few more:
  • 5: using the description of the DSD developed in item 4 to tabulate or otherwise quantify the 14-GHz and 35-GHz radar signatures of rain within a radar range bin (i.e. the functions z14 and z35)
  • 6: for use in the inner region (A), calculating that portion of the covariance matrix C(r0(Z),D') which represents the uncertainties in the radar-estimated mixing ratio profile r0(Z) and the mean drop-diameter profile D0 that are due to the precipitation characteristics unaccounted for by the cloud mixing-ratio deviation Cdev and the uncertainty in the surface cross-section .
  • 7: for use in the intermediate region (B) with the "radar-first" approach, calculating that portion of the covariance matrix C(t(r0(Z),D') associated to the (14-GHz) radar-estimated mixing ratio profile r0(Z) and the single DSD parameter D' which represents the uncertainties in the calculated brightness temperatures t that are due to the precipitation characteristics unaccounted for by r0(Z) and D'.
  • 8: for use in the intermediate region (B) with the "radiometer-first" approach, calculating that portion of the covariance matrix C(z(R,T)) associated to the 14-GHz radar reflectivities calculated from the (coarse) rain mixing ratio profile R with the help of the radiances T, which represents the uncertainties in z that are due to the precipitation characteristics unaccounted for in the forward calculation.
  • 9: calculating the conditional distribution of the cloud mixing ratio given the rain mixing ratio.
Task 0 is the main requirement for the radiometers. The only additional detail that pertains specifically to the core reference algorithm is the labelling of the database profiles. Indeed, it will be important to make sure that the candidate profiles are labelled so as to allow efficient comparisons of the radiances and updates of the probability weights. One suitable pair of labels would be the first two principal components of the rain profile. A third would be the integrated cloud water content. Such labels will be crucial to allow an efficient implementation of the middle factor in equation ().

Task 4 requires the analysis of DSD data from various rain regimes, the characterization of the shapes of these distributions using mutually-independent parameters (or at least parameters whose joint distributions are carefully described), and the calculation of the vertical auto-correlation of each parameter. Task 4 also requires the analysis of ocean surface 35-GHz backscattering cross-section data to determine the variability of and its dependence on the surface wind.

Task 5 requires Mie scattering calculations to quantify the radar signatures (effective reflectivity factor and attenuation coefficient) as a function of the parameters used to describe the DSD. While calculating the signatures of the liquid portion of the cloud and precipitation is relatively straightforward, specific attention will need to be paid to the modeling of the radar response in the melting layer.

Task 6 was discussed in great detail at the end of the previous section, and requires the quantification, using forward simulations, of the effects of 1) the inexactness of the DSD representation, 2) the inhomogeneity of the precipitation, 3) the variability of the water vapor, and 4) the numerical inversion, on the radar-estimated precipitation profiles, and the subsequent efficient tabulation of the covariances as a function of the first 4 principal components of the rain rate profile.

Task 7 is similar to task 6, in that it requires the quantification and efficient tabulation of the covariance matrix of the calculated brightness temperatures corresponding to a given profile of rain mixing ratios and a given rain-adjusted mean drop diameter, or more specifically that portion of the covariance matrix which represents the uncertainties due to 1) the horizontal inhomogeneity of the precipitation, 2) the effect of the cloud , and 3) the variability of the surface temperature. Note that this task achieves much the same goal as that of calculating the covariances in the radiometer-only algorithms, except that in the latter case the variability of the DSD must also be simulated.

Task 8 is also very similar to task 6, in that it too requires the quantification and efficient tabulation, using forward simulations, of the covariances of the calculated 14-GHz radar reflectivities associated to a given database precipitation profile, and which account for the uncertainties due to 1) the vertical and horizontal inhomogeneities in the precipitation and 2) the variability in the drop-size distribution that is unaccounted for by the PIA constraint (i.e. essentially all the uncertainty beyond knowledge of a single mean "rain-adjusted" diameter for the whole column).

Task 9 involves the analysis of data or cloud-simulation results to determine the mean cloud mixing ratio (and its variance) that is associated to a given rain mixing ratio as a function of altitude (and, quite probably, of rain regime).

Summary and flow charts

The core reference algorithm will have to distinguish between three regions: the outer swath (region C) seen only by the radiometer(s), the inner swath (region A) seen by both radar channels along with the radiometer(s), and the intermediate swath (region B) where the radiances are supplemented by 14 GHz radar reflectivities only.

Within the inner swath, the algorithm will first invert the 2-frequency radar measurements into as much detailed information about the rain and DSD profiles as they allow, keeping track of uncertainties in the PIA's and the cloud water content and the ambiguities at low rain mixing ratios. The algorithm will then synthesize the corresponding radiances and compare with the radiometer measurements to constrain the variables that the radars could not constrain sufficiently. the flow chart of the algorithm is as follows:

Within the intermediate region, the algorithm will perform two parallel estimates. The "radar-first" estimate is obtained by first estimating the pdf of the DSD, taking into account the PIA and its uncertainty, then inverting the single frequency radar measurements into rain mixing ratio profiles for each plausible DSD (up to this point the procedure is very much like the TRMM radar algorithm), and finally synthesizing the corresponding radiances and comparing them with the radiometer measurements to constrain the DSD further. The "radiometer-first" estimate is obtained by first comparing the measured brightness temperatures with those in the appropriately constrained database, then, for each plausible match, estimating the pdf of the DSD with the help of the PIA and calculating the corresponding radar reflectivities, which will finally be compared to the measurements to further constrain the best-matching database precipitation profiles. The flow chart is:

In the outer region, the algorithm is the same as the radiometer algorithm, with some subsetting of the database to reflect the higher likelihood of the precipitation being similar to that observed within the inner swaths.

Preliminary simulations using cloud-model results as well as storm "snapshots" synthesized from high-resolution airborne radar measurements as well as from TRMM overpasses show that the uncertainty in the estimates of the surface rain rate should be substantially smaller with the core suite of instruments than it was with the TRMM radar and radiometer. Figure 4 shows a scatter plot of the surface rain rates from the simulations, with the estimates on the vertical axis, the actual values on the horizontal axis, and in the case where the estimates where obtained from a TRMM-like single-frequency radar. Figure 5 shows the corresponding results obtained using a 2-frequency-radar algorithm along the lines described above. Figure 6 summarizes the main conclusion: GPM-core's inner-swath algorithm should be able to estimate rain rates to within a standard deviation of about 20% for rain rates between 1.5 and 12 mm/hr (as opposed to the TRMM radar's 40%), though we will be hard-pressed to achieve such a small uncertainty at lighter rain rates (because the corresponding 14-GHz and 35-GHz signatures are not exploitably different) or at higher rain rates (because the 35-GHz attenuation will blank the echoes). One particular case in the simulations illustrates the DSD estimates rather well: figure 7 shows the simulated vertical distribution of the rain-adjusted mean drop size that was superposed on the PR-precipitation estimated during a TRMM overpass of hurricane Bonnie in August, 1998; and figure 8 shows the estimates obtained from the prototype 2-frequency-radar algorithm. As expected, the estimates are quite accurate away from very light and very heavy rain areas.

One final expected result has to do with the possible bias in the TRMM radar estimates. Indeed, a single frequency radar cannot shed any light on the vertical variability of the DSD. As a result, any assumptions that inevitably have to made about this variability can result in biases in one's single-radar-frequency estimates of the rain, which would not affect the 2-radar-frequency estimates since in that case one generically has enough information to estimate the DSD to first-order from the measurements without a priori assumptions. Figures 9 and 10 confirm that this is indeed the case. The figures were created by grouping together simulation cases with smaller-than-average mean drop size, especially aloft, into a "black" group, while cases with larger-than-average mean drop size, especially near the surface, were grouped into a "red" group. Figure 9 shows the single-radar-frequency estimates vs actual rain rates in both groups, and Figure 10 shows the 2-radar-frequencies estimates (the axes represent rain rates on a logarithmic scale, starting at 1.6 mm/hr and ending at 12.2 mm/hr, with a tick mark at 5 mm/hr). Manifestly, the single-frequency estimates misinterpret the different DSD variability in the two groups as a bias, while the dual radar frequencies retain enough information to prevent such a bias.

Wait! there's more! That's right, the estimates of the combined radar+radiometer retrievals can then be used to train the radiometers to make estimates of the vertical structure of the underlying precipitation when there is no simultaneous radar data. Here are the preprints of two papers (in .pdf format) that have recently appeared in JGR:

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