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Journal of Hydrometeorology

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The hydrological processes over the Tibetan Plateau have significant implications on regional macroscale atmospheric circulation patterns and the Asian monsoon system. Because of its remote setting and lack of ground observations, it is difficult to study the spatial and temporal patterns of precipitation over the plateau, and satellite remote sensing technology can be used to fill in the gaps where station data are not available. In this study the authors examine monthly 1° × 1° rainfall estimates obtained from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I) [National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) algorithm] and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 version 5 (V5) products for the months of April–October 1998–2002 over the Tibetan Plateau. By comparing the satellite estimates with ground observations at 94 weather stations in the study region, the authors derived regression models that produced significant improvements to satellite estimates based on various levels of correction efforts, using geographic location and topographic variables extracted from digital elevation models using geographic information systems (GIS) technology. The explained variance in observed precipitation was improved from 34% to 38% by SSM/I and TRMM 3B42 V5 products alone to over 70% when location and topographic variables were added. These topographic variables reflect micro- to mesoscale surface roughness, height of topographic features or relief, slopes facing toward or away from the moisture pathways, and relative locations or directions to prominent topographic features such as mountain peaks and ridgelines.


© 2008 American Meteorological Society