13 Sep 2023
 | 13 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Measuring rainfall using microwave links: the influence of temporal sampling

Luuk D. van der Valk, Miriam Coenders-Gerrits, Rolf W. Hut, Aart Overeem, Bas Walraven, and Remko Uijlenhoet

Abstract. Terrestrial microwave links are increasingly being used to estimate path-averaged precipitation by determining the attenuation caused by rainfall along the link path, mostly with commercial microwave links from cellular telecommunication networks. However, the temporal resolution of and method to derive these rainfall estimates is often determined by the temporal sampling strategy that is employed by the mobile network operators. Currently, the links are most often sampled at a temporal resolution of 15 minutes with a recording of the minimum and maximum values, while more recently also a form of instantaneous sampling with possible intervals up to 1 s has been set up. For rainfall research purposes, often high temporal resolutions in combination with averaged values are preferred. However, it is uncertain how these various temporal sampling strategies affect the estimated rainfall intensity. Here we aim to understand how temporal sampling strategies affect the measured rainfall intensities using microwave links. To do so, we use data from three collocated microwave links, two 38 GHz and one 26 GHz, sampled at 20 Hz and covering a 2.2 km path over the city of Wageningen, the Netherlands. We aggregate the microwave link power levels to multiple time intervals (1 s to 60 min) and use a mean, instantaneous, and minimum and maximum value to characterize the signal. Based on the aggregated data, we compute rainfall intensities and compare these with 20 Hz rainfall estimates, such that we isolate errors and uncertainties caused by the sampling strategies from instrumental effects, such as different biases between instruments and representativeness errors. In general, our results show that for all sampling strategies an increase in sampling time interval reduces the performance of the rainfall estimates, which especially holds for the instantaneous sampling strategy. Even the mean sampling strategy, which generally performs best of all strategies, is sensitive to this reduction in temporal resolution and could lead to significant underestimations. In this, the non-linear relation between attenuation and rainfall intensity seems to play an important role. The min-max sampling strategy is mostly prone to minor underestimations or large overestimations of the path-averaged rainfall intensities. Moreover, our results, including a comparison with theoretical events, show that the attenuation due to wet antennas not only affects the comparison between the rainfall estimates obtained with a microwave link and another reference instrument, but also has a significant influence on the rainfall retrieval algorithm. Overall, this study demonstrates the effect a selected sampling strategy can have on rainfall intensity estimates using (commercial) microwave links.

Luuk D. van der Valk et al.

Status: open (until 19 Oct 2023)

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Luuk D. van der Valk et al.

Luuk D. van der Valk et al.


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Short summary
Microwave links, often part of mobile phone networks, can be used to measure rainfall along the link path by determining the signal loss caused by rainfall. We use high-frequency data of multiple microwave links to recreate commonly used sampling strategies. For time intervals up to 1 min, the influence of sampling strategies on estimated rainfall intensities is relatively little, while for intervals longer than 5–15 min, the sampling strategy can have significant influences on the estimates.