Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

Importance to Global Change and Human Welfare

Tropical rainfall affects the lives and economics of half the Earth's population residents of developing countries in or near the Earth's tropics. Rainfall variation in the tropics also can affect the weather in locations thousands of miles away, influencing the lives and livelihoods of populations worldwide. For example, tropical rain systems such as typhoons, hurricanes and monsoons produce floods worldwide. The best known effect of tropical short-term climate variations on the world is the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) of the Pacific Ocean. In an El Nino, warm water and its coupled cloud systems spread eastward from Indonesia toward South America. Weather conditions associated with El Nino include wetter than normal weather in California, wetter and colder winters than normal in the eastern United States and dryer summer monsoon seasons across the southern hemisphere.

Hurricane Mitch on October 30, 1998 as seen from TRMM.

With temperature, rainfall is perhaps the most important factor in defining climate. Excess rainfall can cause flooding and enormous property and crop damage. Still, a deficiency of rainfall can cause drought and crop failure.

Rainfall is also the major source of energy that drives the circulation of the atmosphere. As water changes from liquid to vapor and back to liquid, heat is stored and then released. This latent heat can intensify some weather systems, making tropical rainfall an important determinant of atmospheric circulation and short-term climate changes.

Major advances are occurring in the modeling of rainfall and rain-related cloud processes. The response of cloud systems to their environment is an important link in a chain of climate variations. Scientists are developing cloud models to convert TRMM's signals into rainfall rates.

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Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission
Importance to Global Change and Human Welfare
Role of Rainfall in the Earth System
TRMM Observatory and Instruments
Science Data Retrieval and Transmission Process
TRMM Validation