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An Evaluation of Microwave Land Surface Emissivities Over the Continental United States to Benefit GPM-Era Precipitation Algorithms

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20 Author(s)

Passive microwave (PMW) satellite-based precipitation over land algorithms rely on physical models to define the most appropriate channel combinations to use in the retrieval, yet typically require considerable empirical adaptation of the model for use with the satellite measurements. Although low-frequency channels are better suited to measure the emission due to liquid associated with rain, most techniques to date rely on high-frequency, scattering-based schemes since the low-frequency methods are limited to the highly variable land surface background, whose radiometric contribution is substantial and can vary more than the contribution of the rain signal. Thus, emission techniques are generally useless over the majority of the Earth's surface. As a first step toward advancing to globally useful physical retrieval schemes, an intercomparison project was organized to determine the accuracy and variability of several emissivity retrieval schemes. A three-year period (July 2004-June 2007) over different targets with varying surface characteristics was developed. The PMW radiometer data used includes the Special Sensor Microwave Imagers, SSMI Sounder, Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E), Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI), Advanced Microwave Sounding Units, and Microwave Humidity Sounder, along with land surface model emissivity estimates. Results from three specific targets in North America were examined. While there are notable discrepancies among the estimates, similar seasonal trends and associated variability were noted. Because of differences in the treatment surface temperature in the various techniques, it was found that comparing the product of temperature and emissivity yielded more insight than when comparing the emissivity alone. This product is the major contribution to the overall signal measured by PMW sensors and, if it can be properly retrieved, will improve the utility of emission techniques for over land - recipitation retrievals. As a more rigorous means of comparison, these emissivity time series were analyzed jointly with precipitation data sets, to examine the emissivity response immediately following rain events. The results demonstrate that while the emissivity structure can be fairly well characterized for certain surface types, there are other more complex surfaces where the underlying variability is more than can be captured with the PMW channels. The implications for Global Precipitation Measurement-era algorithms suggest that physical retrievals are feasible over vegetated land during the warm seasons.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:51 ,  Issue: 1 )