Satellite Microwave Surface Observations in Tropical Cyclones

Quilfen, Yves; Chapron, Bertrand; Tournadre, Jean
February 2010
Monthly Weather Review;Feb2010, Vol. 138 Issue 2, p421
Academic Journal
Sea surface estimates of local winds, waves, and rain-rate conditions are crucial to complement infrared/visible satellite images in estimating the strength of tropical cyclones (TCs). Satellite measurements at microwave frequencies are thus key elements of present and future observing systems. Available for more than 20 years, passive microwave measurements are very valuable but still suffer from insufficient resolution and poor wind vector retrievals in the rainy conditions encountered in and around tropical cyclones. Scatterometer and synthetic aperture radar active microwave measurements performed at the C and Ku band on board the European Remote Sensing (ERS), the Meteorological Operational (MetOp), the Quick Scatterometer (QuikSCAT), the Environmental Satellite (Envisat), and RadarSat satellites can also be used to map the surface wind field in storms. Their accuracy is limited in the case of heavy rain and possible saturation of the microwave signals is reported. Altimeter dual-frequency measurements have also been shown to provide along-track information related to surface wind speed, wave height, and vertically integrated rain rate at about 6-km resolution. Although limited for operational use by their dimensional sampling, the dual-frequency capability makes altimeters a unique satellite-borne sensor to perform measurements of key surface parameters in a consistent way. To illustrate this capability two Jason-1 altimeter passes over Hurricanes Isabel and Wilma are examined. The area of maximum TC intensity, as described by the National Hurricane Center and by the altimeter, is compared for these two cases. Altimeter surface wind speed and rainfall-rate observations are further compared with measurements performed by other remote sensors, namely, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission instruments and the airborne Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer.


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