Prediction of rainfall intensity measurement errors using commercial microwave communication links

A. Zinevich, H. Messer, P. Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Commercial microwave radio links forming cellular communication networks are known to be a valuable instrument for measuring near-surface rainfall. However, operational communication links are more uncertain relatively to the dedicated installations since their geometry and frequencies are optimized for high communication performance rather than observing rainfall. Quantification of the uncertainties for measurements that are non-optimal in the first place is essential to assure usability of the data. In this work we address modeling of instrumental impairments, i.e. signal variability due to antenna wetting, baseline attenuation uncertainty and digital quantization, as well as environmental ones, i.e. variability of drop size distribution along a link affecting accuracy of path-averaged rainfall measurement and spatial variability of rainfall in the link's neighborhood affecting the accuracy of rainfall estimation out of the link path. Expressions for root mean squared error (RMSE) for estimates of path-averaged and point rainfall have been derived. To verify the RMSE expressions quantitatively, path-averaged measurements from 21 operational communication links in 12 different locations have been compared to records of five nearby rain gauges over three rainstorm events. The experiments show that the prediction accuracy is above 90% for temporal accumulation less than 30 min and lowers for longer accumulation intervals. Spatial variability in the vicinity of the link, baseline attenuation uncertainty and, possibly, suboptimality of wet antenna attenuation model are the major sources of link-gauge discrepancies. In addition, the dependence of the optimal coefficients of a conventional wet antenna attenuation model on spatial rainfall variability and, accordingly, link length has been shown. The expressions for RMSE of the path-averaged rainfall estimates can be useful for integration of measurements from multiple heterogeneous links into data assimilation algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1402
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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