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Keywords:

  • tropical precipitation

[1] This paper focuses on the relation between local sea surface temperature (SST) and convective precipitation fraction and stratiform rainfall area from radar observations of precipitation, using data from the Kwajalein atoll ground-based radar as well as the precipitation radar on board the TRMM satellite. We find that the fraction of convective precipitation increases with SST at a rate of about 6 to 12%/K and the area of stratiform rainfall normalized by total precipitation decreases with SST at rates between −5 and −28%/K. These relations are observed to hold for different regions over the tropical oceans and also for different periods of time. Correlations are robust to outliers and to undersampled precipitation regions. Kwajalein results are relatively insensitive to the parameters in the stratiform-convective classification algorithm. Quantitative differences between the results obtained using the two different radars could be explained by the smoothing in the reflectivity of convective regions due to the relatively large pixel size of the TRMM precipitation radar compared to the size of the convective clouds. Although a dependence on temperature such as the one documented is consistent with an increase in the efficiency of convective precipitation (and therefore consistent with one of the mechanisms invoked to explain the original Iris effect observations) this is but one step in studying the possibility of a climate feedback. Further work is required to clarify the particular mechanism involved.