The severe weather characteristics of convective storms as observed by the Nimbus 7 Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) are investigated. Low 37 GHz brightness temperatures (due to scattering of upwelling radiation by precipitation size ice) are related to the occurrence of severe weather (large hail, strong winds or wind damage, tornadoes and funnel clouds) within one hour of the satellite observation time. During 1979 and 1980 over the United States there were 263 storms which had very cold 37 GHz signatures. Of these storms 15% were severe. The SMMR detected hail, wind, and tornadic storms equally well. Critical Success Indices (CSI's) of 0.32, 0.48, and 0.38 are achieved for the thresholding of severe vs. nonsevere low brightness temperature events during 1979, 1980, and the two years combined, respectively. Such scores are comparable to skill scores for early radar detection methods. These results suggest that a future geostationary passive microwave imaging capability at 37 GHz, with sufficient spatial and temporal resolution, would allow the detection of severe convective storms. This capability would provide a useful complement to radar, especially in areas not covered by radar.
METEOROLOGY AND CLIMATOLOGY