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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Contribution to Tropical Rainfall with respect to Convective System Type, Size, and Intensity Estimated from the 85-GHz Ice-Scattering Signature

  • Author(s): Mohr, Karen I
  • Famiglietti, James S
  • Zipser, Edward J
  • et al.

This study compiled a database of precipitating cloud clusters from 85-GHz data in 10 regions of the wet Tropics for a calendar year (November 1992–October 1993). The cloud clusters were grouped into four classes of basic system types, based on size (closed 250 K contour greater or less than 2000 km2) and minimum enclosed 85-GHz brightness temperature (greater or less than 225 K) to indicate the presence or absence of large areas of active, deep convection. For each cloud cluster, instantaneous volumetric rain rates (mm km2 h−1) were calculated using an 85-GHz ice-scattering-based rain-rate retrieval algorithm. Because the ice-scattering signature is linearly related to but does not directly measure rain rate, the methodology was appropriate for estimating relative contributions rather than quantifying tropical rainfall.

For the 3-month wet season of each study region, the rainfall contributions with respect to system type, size, and intensity were calculated. Regional differences were small among the contributions with respect to system type and to precipitating area. Although mesoscale convective systems constituted 10%–20% of the regional populations, they contributed 70%–80% of the rainfall. With respect to cloud cluster area, the top 10% of cloud cluster areas contributed more than 70% of the rainfall, and the top 1% (greater than 20 000 km2) contributed about 35% of the total rainfall. Regional differences were apparent in the distributions of rainfall contribution with respect to minimum brightness temperature. The Amazon’s distribution more closely resembled the oceanic distributions than the continental distributions. The distributions of the oceanic regions peaked at 200 K, and over half of the rain in the oceanic regions was contributed by the fewer than 20% of the cloud clusters colder than 210 K. Distributions in the continental regions peaked at 175 K. A total of 70%–80% of the rain was contributed by the 20%–30% of continental cloud clusters colder than 200 K, with nonnegligible contributions from a small number of cloud clusters colder than 120 K. Sub-Saharan Africa had the largest contribution from cloud clusters colder than 120 K.

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