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Water is fundamental to life on Earth, affecting the behavior of the weather, climate, energy and ecological systems as water moves through the Earth’s water cycle as vapor, liquid and ice. Precipitation, a key component of the water cycle, is difficult to measure since rain and snow vary greatly in both space and time.

Obtaining reliable ground-based measurements of rain and snow often presents a formidable challenge due to large gaps between reliable instruments over land and, particularly, over the oceans. From the vantage point of space, satellites provide more frequent and accurate observations and measurements of rain and snow around the globe. This allows key insights into when, where and how much it rains or snows globally, supplying vital information to unravel the complex roles water plays in Earth systems.

In order to gain further insights into the relationships between the components of the Earth’s water cycle, we need to know not only how much rain falls at the surface but also the distribution of rain, snow, and other forms of precipitation within the atmosphere above the surface. This allows us to characterize precipitation processes that are vital to understanding the links and the transfer of energy (heat) between the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.

NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM) provide advanced information on rain and snow characteristics and detailed three-dimensional knowledge of precipitation structure within the atmosphere, which help scientists study and understand Earth's water cycle, weather and climate.

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Monsoons: Wet, Dry, Repeat
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Ryan Fitzgibbons This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio The monsoon is a seasonal rain and wind pattern that occurs over South Asia (among other places). Through NASA satellites and models we can see the monsoon patterns like never before. Monsoon rains provide important reservoirs of water that sustain human activities like agriculture and supports the natural environment through replenishment of aquifers. However, too much rainfall routinely causes disasters in the region...
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OLYMPEX Successfully Grabs the Rains
NASA has finished its campaign to study extreme rain, snow and winds of the Olympic National Forest. Scientists Walt Petersen of NASA Marshall and Robert Houze of the University of Washington narrate this inside look at the Olympic Mountain Experiment (OLYMPEX) field campaign. During the campaign, NASA and its partners gathered precipitation data through both ground and airborne instruments around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. They measured the abundance and variety of precipitation including light rain, heavy thunderstorms, and snowfall in the coastal forest. The data collected...
OLYMPEX Scientists in the Field
From November 10 through December 21, NASA and university scientists are taking to the field to study wet winter weather near Seattle, Washington. With weather radars, weather balloons, specialized ground instruments, and NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory, the science team will be verifying rain and snowfall observations made by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite mission on a NASA-led field campaign, The Olympic Mountain Experiment, or OLYMPEX. Rachael Kroodsma is the instrument scientist for the CoSMIR on board NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory as part of the OLYMPEX field...

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