The evolution of remotely sensed precipitation products for hydrological applications with a focus on the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM)

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Journal of Environmental Hydrology


This study examines the evolution of how remotely sensed precipitation products have impacted hydrologic modeling from six basins across the continental United States. Precipi- tation products include both ground-based (Multisensor Precipitation Estimator - MPE) and space-based products. Two space-based products are from the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) and include the real-time TRMM Multi-Satellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA-RT) and TRMM 3B42 Research product. Precipitation products are compared be- tween early (2004-2007) and late (2008-2010) periods. Additionally, version 6 and the new version 7 of these TRMM products are examined. Watersheds examined were moderately large (1233 to 8905 square kilometers) and include the San Pedro (Arizona), Cimarron (Oklahoma); Alapaha (Georgia), mid-Nueces (Texas), San Casimiro (Texas), and the mid-Rio Grande basins, which is a bi-national basin that spans the Texas-Mexico border. Precipitation products are used to drive streamflow simulations using the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The main results of this study concludes that MPE is a mature remote sensing product that generally supports superior hydrologic simulations based on standard performance metrics such as mass balance error and Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency coefficient. Both versions of TRMM products generally support acceptable simulations. Improved performance during the late period for TMPA-RT is noted and this improvement is related to modification of TRMM in January 2009 with the addition of more satellite data and a climatologic bias correction, which greatly improves the real-time TMPA-RT product.

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