Global distribution of tropical deep convection: Different perspectives from TRMM infrared and radar data

Chuntao Liu, Edward J. Zipser, Stephen W. Nesbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cold cloud features (CCFs) are defined by grouping six full years of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) infrared pixels with brightness temperature at 10.8-μm wavelength (TB11) less than or equal to 210 and 235 K. Then the precipitation radar (PR)-observed precipitation area and reflectivity profiles inside CCFs are summarized and compared with the area and minimum temperature of the CCFs. Comparing the radar with the infrared data, significant regional differences are found, quantified, and used to describe regional differences in selected properties of deep convective systems in the Tropics. Inside 4 million CCFs, 35% (57%) of cold cloud area with TB11 ≤ 235 K (210 K) have rain detected by the PR near the surface. Only ∼1% of the area of TB11 ≤ 210 K have 20 dBZ reaching 14 km. CCFs colder than 210 K occur most frequently over the west Pacific Ocean, but 20-dBZ echoes extending above 10 km in this region are disproportionately rare by comparison to many continental regions. Ratios of PR-detected raining area to area of TB11 ≤ 235 K are higher over central Africa, Argentina, and India than over tropical oceans. After applying these ratios to the climatological Global Precipitation Index (GPI) tropical rainfall estimates, the regional distribution is more consistent with the rainfall retrieval from the PR. This suggests that the discrepancy between GPI- and PR-retrieved rainfall can be partly explained with the nonraining anvil. Categorization of CCFs based on the minimum TB11, size of CCFs, and 20-dBZ heights demonstrates that 20-dBZ echoes above 17 km occur most frequently over land, while the coldest clouds occur most frequently over the west Pacific. The vertical distances between the cloud-top heights determined from TB11 and PR 20-dBZ echo-top heights are smaller over land than over ocean and may be considered as another proxy for convective intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-503
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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