Global Virga Precipitation Distribution Derived From Three Spaceborne Radars and Its Contribution to the False Radiometer Precipitation Detection

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©2018. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. This study first quantifies the virga precipitation occurrence percentage using three spaceborne radar observations, including Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Precipitation Radar (PR), Global Precipitation Measurement dual-frequency PR (Ku-band PR/Ka-band PR [KuPR/KaPR]), and CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR). PR and KuPR/KaPR show that virga occurrence percentage is over 30% in arid regions (e.g., Sahara desert and deserts of Australia). CPR reveals similar virga geospatial distribution. However, the virga percentage based on CPR is about twice as large as that based on PR and KuPR/KaPR due to better detection sensitivity. Results also show that the majority of the virga clouds are altostratus and cirrus. Second, we investigate the virga precipitation contribution to the passive microwave radiometer false precipitation detection. Virga precipitation accounts for as much as 50% (30%) of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Microwave Imager (Global Precipitation Measurement Microwave Imager) false detection results in arid regions. The underlying reason is because precipitation detection over land primarily relies on the ice scattering signature, while virga and light precipitation (e.g., 1 mm/hr) have similar amounts of ice water path in arid regions.

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Geophysical Research Letters