At NASA, we have been exploring non-traditional approaches to assimilating TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) and Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) surface rain rate and latent heating profile information in global systems. In this talk we show that assimilating microwave rain rates using a continuous variational assimilation scheme based on moisture tendency corrections improves quantitative precipitation estimates (QPE) and related clouds, radiation energy fluxes, and large-scale circulations in the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) reanalyses. Short-range forecasts initialized with these improved analyses also yield better QPF scores and storm track predictions for Hurricanes Bonnie and Floyd. We present a status report on current efforts to assimilate convective and stratiform latent heating profile information within the general variational framework of model parameter estimation to seek further improvements.
Within the next 5 years, there will be a gradual increase in microwave rain products available from operational and research satellites, culminating to a target constellation of 9 satellites to provide global rain measurements every 3 hours with the proposed Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission in 2007/2008. Based on what has been learned from TRMM, there is a high degree of confidence that these observations can play a major role in improving weather forecasts and producing better global datasets for understanding the Earth's water and energy cycle. The key to success is to adopt an integrated approach to retrieval, validation, modeling, and data assimilation in a coordinated end-to-end observation-application program.