Observations of the space-time variability of precipitation around the globe are imperative for understanding how climate change affects the global energy and water cycle (GWEC) in terms of changes in regional precipitation characteristics (type, frequency, intensity), as well as extreme hydrologic events, such as floods and droughts. The GWEC is driven by a host of complex processes and interactions, many of which are not yet well understood. Precipitation, which converts atmospheric water vapor into rain and snow, is a central element of the GWEC. Precipitation regulates the global energy and radiation balance through coupling to clouds and water vapor (the primary greenhouse gas) and shapes global winds and atmospheric transport through latent heat release. Surface precipitation directly affects soil moisture and land hydrology and is also the primary source of freshwater in a world that is facing an emerging freshwater crisis. Accurate and timely knowledge of global precipitation is essential for understanding the multi-scale interaction of the weather, climate and ecological systems and for improving our ability to manage freshwater resources and predicting high-impact weather events including hurricanes, floods, droughts and landslides.
In terms of measurements of precipitation, it is critical that data be collected at local scales over a global domain to capture the spatial and temporal diversity of falling rain and snow in meso-scale, synoptic-scale and planetary-scale events. However, given the limited weather station networks on land and the impracticality of making extensive rainfall measurements over oceans, a comprehensive description of the space and time variability of global precipitation can only be achieved from the vantage point of space.
A.Y. Hou, G. Skofronick-Jackson, C. Kummerow, and J. M. Shepherd, Global Precipitation Measurement, Chapter 6 in Precipitation: Advances in Measurement, Estimation and Prediction Editor: Silas Michaelides, Springer-Verlag, March 2008, 540pp, ISBN: 978-3-540-77654-3.