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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 7 | Copyright
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 4465-4476, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 26 Jul 2018

Research article | 26 Jul 2018

Rainfall retrieval with commercial microwave links in São Paulo, Brazil

Manuel F. Rios Gaona1, Aart Overeem1,2, Timothy H. Raupach3,*, Hidde Leijnse2, and Remko Uijlenhoet1 Manuel F. Rios Gaona et al.
  • 1Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University & Research, 6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2R&D Observations and Data Technology, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, 3731 GA De Bilt, the Netherlands
  • 3Environmental Remote Sensing Laboratory, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • *Current affiliation: Institute of Geography, and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Abstract. In the last decade there has been a growing interest from the hydrometeorological community regarding rainfall estimation from commercial microwave link (CML) networks. Path-averaged rainfall intensities can be retrieved from the signal attenuation between cell phone towers. Although this technique is still in development, it offers great opportunities for the retrieval of rainfall rates at high spatiotemporal resolutions very close to the Earth's surface. Rainfall measurements at high spatiotemporal resolutions are highly valued in urban hydrology, for instance, given the large impact that flash floods exert on society. Flash floods are triggered by intense rainfall events that develop over short time scales.

Here, we present one of the first evaluations of this measurement technique for a humid subtropical climate. Rainfall estimation for subtropical climates is highly relevant, as many countries with few surface rainfall observations are located in such areas. The test bed of the current study is the Brazilian city of São Paulo. The open-source algorithm RAINLINK was applied to retrieve rainfall intensities from (power) attenuation measurements. The performance of RAINLINK estimates was evaluated for 145 of the 213 CMLs in the São Paulo metropolitan area for which we received data, for 81 days between October 2014 and January 2015. We evaluated the retrieved rainfall intensities and accumulations from CMLs against those from a dense automatic gauge network. Results were found to be promising and encouraging when it comes to capturing the city-average rainfall dynamics. Mixed results were obtained for individual CML estimates, which may be related to erroneous metadata.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Rainfall estimates from commercial microwave links were obtained for the city of Sao Paulo (Brazil). The results show the potential of such networks as complementary rainfall measurements for more robust networks (e.g. radars, gauges, satellites).
Rainfall estimates from commercial microwave links were obtained for the city of Sao Paulo...