Precipitation is the fundamental source of freshwater in the water cycle. It is critical for everyone, from subsistence farmers in Africa to weather forecasters around the world, to know when, where, and how much rain and snow is falling. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory spacecraft, launched in February 2014, has the most advanced instruments to measure precipitation from space and, together with other satellite information, provides high-quality merged data on rain and snow worldwide every 30 min. Data from GPM and the predecessor Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) have been fundamental to a broad range of applications and end-user groups and are among the most widely downloaded Earth science data products across NASA. End-user applications have rapidly become an integral component in translating satellite data into actionable information and knowledge used to inform policy and enhance decision-making at local to global scales. In this article, we present NASA precipitation data, capabilities, and opportunities from the perspective of end users. We outline some key examples of how TRMM and GPM data are being applied across a broad range of sectors, including numerical weather prediction, disaster modeling, agricultural monitoring, and public health research. This work provides a discussion of some of the current needs of the community as well as future plans to better support end-user communities across the globe to utilize this data for their own applications.
Precipitation is the fundamental source of freshwater in the water cycle. If one could collect all of the water in the atmosphere, including water vapor, clouds, and precipitation, it would account for 4% of the total freshwater and 0.01% of the total water on Earth (USGS 2016). Despite its small fraction of the total, precipitation is the critical pipeline that replenishes aquifers, sustains agriculture, and enables our economy to grow (Shepherd et al. 2016). Where and when precipitation is falling has historically been recorded by surface rain gauges. However, if one takes the total surface area of the orifices for all the rain gauges routinely used in the generation of global precipitation products and puts them together, they would only cover the area of two basketball courts (Kidd et al. 2017). As the fleet of remote sensing platforms to measure precipitation has grown, increasingly rapid and easy access to precipitation datasets has expanded data use, providing a growing legacy of high-quality precipitation data that has enabled new science and new applications to benefit society (Kucera et al. 2013).
In 2016, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had over two dozen satellites and instruments in orbit around Earth that are continually taking the pulse of our planet. NASA supports and enables a diverse range of applications of Earth science data. In this context, "applications" refers to the use of satellite and airborne data and related products in decision-making for societal benefit (Brown and Escobar 2014). The ultimate goals of these efforts are to effectively and efficiently identify, respond to, and address the needs of current and potential user groups by guiding how...