Assessment of Satellite Precipitation Products in Relation With Orographic Enhancement Over the Western United States

Abishek Adhikari, Ali Behrangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Two years (2018–2019) of different precipitation products are assessed for their skill in capturing orographic precipitation over the western United States (30°–50°N & 105°–135°W) using two popular methods. The first method defines orographic indices using orographic enhancement and moisture content that represents the amount of moisture advected over sloping terrain. In contrast, the second method classifies precipitation events into orographic and non-orographic events. NCEP Stage-IV product is used as a reference. All of the evaluated products (radar, microwave imager/sounder, and infrared) show more significant errors for the orographic than the non-orographic events. The Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) products; Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR), combined radar and radiometer (COMBINE), and GPM Microwave Imager (GMI), and Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS), severely underestimate the precipitation rates, especially for heavy precipitation (>4 mm/day), whereas infrared precipitation (used in the Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for GPM; IMERG-IR) and a reanalysis product (ERA5) show relatively better estimation. It was found that the amount of precipitation over the reference (rate BIAS) varies with seasons, so in cold seasons satellite precipitation products tend to underestimate while in warm-season they (except DPR) tend to overestimate precipitation amount. Most of the satellite products severely underestimate precipitation volume at relatively colder surfaces (<10°C) and lower TPW (<15 mm), but ERA5 shows little rate BIAS in such cases. The underestimation tends to be larger for orographic than non-orographic events. In contrast, ERA5 shows relatively large underestimation at warmer temperatures (>20°C), where satellite products tend to overestimate precipitation amounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021EA001906
JournalEarth and Space Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • orographic precipitation
  • passive microwave precipitation retrieval
  • precipitation products over the western United States
  • satellite remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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