Comparison of TRMM precipitation retrievals with rain gauge data from ocean buoys Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Four years of precipitation retrievals from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite are compared with data from 25 surface rain gauges on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory (NOAA/PMEL) Tropical AtmosphereOcean Array/Triangle Trans-Ocean Buoy Network TAO/TRITON buoy array in the tropical Pacific. The buoy gauges have a significant advantage over island-based gauges for this purpose because they represent open-ocean conditions and are not affected by island orography or surface heating. Because precipitation is correlated with itself in both space and time, comparisons between the two data sources can be improved by properly averaging in space and/or time. When comparing gauges with individual satellite overpasses, the optimal averaging time for the gauge (centered on the satellite overpass time) depends on the area over which the satellite data are averaged. For 1 1 areas there is a broad maximum in the correlation for gauge-averaging periods of 2 to 10 h. Maximum correlations r are in the range 0.6 to 0.7. For larger satellite averaging areas, correlations with the gauges are smaller (because a single gauge becomes less representative of the precipitation in the box) and the optimum gauge-averaging time is longer. For individual satellite overpasses averaged over a 1 1 box, the relative rms difference with respect to a rain gauge centered in the box is 200% to 300%. For 32-day time means over 1 1 boxes, the relative rms difference between the satellite data and a gauge is in the range of 40% to 70%. The bias between the gauges and the satellite retrievals is estimated by correlating the long-term time-mean precipitation estimates across the set of gauges. The TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) gives an r2 of 0.97 and a slope of 0.970, indicating very little bias with respect to the gauges. For the Precipitation Radar (PR) the comparable numbers are 0.92 and 0.699. The results of this study are consistent with the sampling error estimates from the statistical model of Bell and Kundu.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Bowman, K. P.

citation count

  • 110

complete list of authors

  • Bowman, KP

publication date

  • January 2005