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Get smart: satellite refines rainfall forecasts

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite is helping scientists more accurately track hurricanes and predict rainfall.  

January 19, 2000
Web posted at: 9:47 a.m. EST (1447 GMT)

By Environmental News Network staff

A satellite launched in 1997 to study how, why and where rainfall occurs in the tropics has more than tripled the accuracy of short-term rainfall forecasts, researchers reported at a recent meteorological meeting.

Using "true rainfall" data supplied by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, researchers examined the behavior of several forecast models and selected properties from each model. The chosen properties, combined with other forecasting data, provided more accurate three-day predictions of tropical rainfall.

"Including rainfall into the multi-forecast model, or super-ensemble model, is a unique approach," said T.N. Krishnamurti, a researcher at Florida State University who co-wrote the study and presented it at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Long Beach, California.

"Our research has shown that the global as well as the regional skills using the multi-analysis super-ensemble are higher with TRMM research data," he said.

Nearly every year, scientists get a new forecasting tool to help them improve short-term forecasts in the tropics. But few of the toys have yielded significant results. The new satellite data, on the other hand, has significantly improved the art of weather forecasting, they say.
Hurricane Floyd
Scientists accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Floyd, shown here, with the help of data gathered by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite.  

The improvement is especially apparent in tracking hurricanes. During the 1999 hurricane season, for example, experimental forecasts aided by satellite data correctly predicted the courses of Dennis and Floyd.

"Understanding rainfall patterns generated by our global climate models is an extremely difficult problem," said Chris Kummerow, project scientist for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. "Having additional information available from these weather forecast models has not only the obvious benefit of better short-term forecasts, but may also help shed additional light on the climate models."

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite was launched to study precipitation that falls between 35 degrees north latitude and 35 degrees south latitude. Tropical precipitation accounts for more than two-thirds of the rainfall on Earth.

Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Measuring tropical rainfall from space

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
American Meteorological Society
Journal of Climate
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