Microwave Remote Sensing, Oceanic rainfall, Microwave Radiometry, Microwave scatterometry, SeaWinds scatteromter, QRad, SRad, QuikSCAT, ADEOS-II, satellite, mathmatical inversion algorithm


The Ku band microwave remote sensor, SeaWinds, was developed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Two identical SeaWinds instruments were launched into space. The first was flown onboard NASA QuikSCAT satellite which has been orbiting the Earth since June 1999, and the second instrument flew onboard the Japanese Advanced Earth Observing Satellite II (ADEOS-II) from December 2002 till October 2003 when an irrecoverable solar panel failure caused a premature end to the ADEOS-II satellite mission. SeaWinds operates at a frequency of 13.4 GHz, and was originally designed to measure the speed and direction of the ocean surface wind vector by relating the normalized radar backscatter measurements to the near surface wind vector through a geophysical model function (GMF). In addition to the backscatter measurement capability, SeaWinds simultaneously measures the polarized radiometric emission from the surface and atmosphere, utilizing a ground signal processing algorithm known as the QuikSCAT / SeaWinds Radiometer (QRad / SRad). This dissertation presents the development and validation of a mathematical inversion algorithm that combines the simultaneous active radar backscatter and the passive microwave brightness temperatures observed by the SeaWinds sensor to retrieve the oceanic rainfall. The retrieval algorithm is statistically based, and has been developed using collocated measurements from SeaWinds, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) rain rates, and Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) wind fields from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The oceanic rain is retrieved on a spacecraft wind vector cell (WVC) measurement grid that has a spatial resolution of 25 km. To evaluate the accuracy of the retrievals, examples of the passive-only, as well as the combined active / passive rain estimates from SeaWinds are presented, and comparisons are made with the standard TRMM rain data products. Results demonstrate that SeaWinds rain measurements are in good agreement with the independent microwave rain observations obtained from TMI. Further, by applying a threshold on the retrieved rain rates, SeaWinds rain estimates can be utilized as a rain flag. In order to evaluate the performance of the SeaWinds flag, comparisons are made with the Impact based Multidimensional Histogram (IMUDH) rain flag developed by JPL. Results emphasize the powerful rain detection capabilities of the SeaWinds retrieval algorithm. Due to its broad swath coverage, SeaWinds affords additional independent sampling of the oceanic rainfall, which may contribute to the future NASA's Precipitation Measurement Mission (PMM) objectives of improving the global sampling of oceanic rain within 3 hour windows. Also, since SeaWinds is the only sensor onboard QuikSCAT, the SeaWinds rain estimates can be used to improve the flagging of rain-contaminated oceanic wind vector retrievals. The passive-only rainfall retrieval algorithm (QRad / SRad) has been implemented by JPL as part of the level 2B (L2B) science data product, and can be obtained from the Physical Oceanography Distributed Data Archive (PO.DAAC).


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Graduation Date





Jones, W. Linwood


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering








Release Date

December 2007

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)