TRMM was launched in 1997 and currently operates in a low-inclination (35 deg), non-sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 402 km (350 km prior to August 2001). The satellite analysis follows the methodologies described in Shepherd et al. (2002). Nearly five years of TRMM PR-derived mean monthly rainfall estimates are utilized to produce annual and warm season isohyetal analyses around Houston. Early results indicate that rainfall rates (mm/h) for the entire period are largest within 100 km northeast and east of Houston (e.g. the "hypothesized downwind region"). The mean rainfall rate over the Houston urban center is 30.5% larger than the upwind control region. The mean rainfall rate in the downwind region is 34.4% larger than the upwind region. An analysis of a parameter called the urban rainfall ratio (URR) illustrates that 65% (88%) of the satellite-derived rainfall rates in the downwind (upwind control) region are greater (less) than the mean background rainfall rate of the entire study region. When the data is stratified by summer months from 1998 to 2001 (June-August), even greater influence over and downwind of the urban area is observed in the statistics. This result is consistent with published reports of urban-generated rainfall being more prevalent in the warm season.
The research demonstrates that the evolving TRMM satellite climatology is a credible way to detect mesoscale precipitation signatures that may be linked to urbanization. Early results also corroborate recent findings on Houston-induced convection/rainfall anomalies. Burian and Shepherd will report on other aspects of the downscaling analysis in future forums, but early rain gauge results are consistent with the satellite-based observations.