First, we examine current scientific progress and understanding that have been possible through use of spaceborne precipitation radar measurements being provided by the TRMM and CloudSat satellites. Second, we look across a future 20-year time frame to assess how and why anticipated improvements in space radar systems will further advance scientific progress into topic areas once considered beyond the realm of space-based remote sensing. JAXA's 13.8 GHz Ku-band cross-track scanning Precipitation Radar (PR) developed for flight on NASA's non-sun-synchronous, diurnally-precessing TRMM satellite, was the first Earth radar flown in space that was designed specifically for precipitation measurement. Its proven accuracy in measuring global rainfall in the tropics and sub-tropics and its unanticipated longevity in continuing these measurements beyond a full decade have established the standards against which all follow-up and future space radars will be evaluated. In regards to the current PR measurement time series, we will discuss a selection of major scientific discoveries and impacts which have set the stage for future radar measuring systems. In fact, the 2nd contemporary space radar applicable for terrestrial precipitation measurement, i.e., JPL-CSA's 94 GHz nadir-staring Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) flown on NASA's sun-synchronous CloudSat satellite, although designed primarily for measurement of non-precipitating cloud hydrometeors and aerosols, has also unquestionably advanced precipitation measurement because CPR's higher frequency and greatly increased sensitivity (approximately 30 dBZ) has enabled global observations of light rain rate spectrum processes (i.e., rain rates below 0.05 mm per hourand of precipitation processes in the high troposphere (particularly ice phase processes). These processes are beyond reach of the TRMM radar because the PR sensitivity limit is approximately 17 dBZ which means its lower rain rate cutoff is around 0.3 mm per hour and its vertical profiling acuity is greatly limited above the melting layer. Thus, the newer CPR measurements have become important for a variety of scientific reasons that will be highlighted and assessed. In considering scientific progress likely to stem from future precipitation radar systems, we will specifically examine possible scientific impacts from three anticipated missions for which NASA and various of its space agency partners are expected to lead the way. These three missions are: (1) the nearterm Global Precipitation Measuring (GPM) Mission; (2) the decadal timeline Aerosol and Cloud Experiment (ACE) Mission; and the post-decadal timeline NEXRAD in Space (NIS) Mission. The observational capabilities of the planned radar systems for each of these three satellite missions are distinct from each other and each provides progressive improvements in precipitation measuring and scientific research capabilities relative to where we are now -- insofar as TRMM PR and the CloudSat CPR capabilities. The potential innovations in scientific research will be discussed in a framework of likely synergisms between next-generation radar capabilities and accessible dynamical and microphysical properties that have heretofore evaded detection.
Meteorology and Climatology
4th IPWG Workshop; 11 - 26 Oct. 2008; Beijing; China