Satellite methods for the measurement of precipitation have used images obtained at visible, IR and microwave frequencies. Visible/IR methods infer precipitation from the appearance and behaviour of clouds. Microwave methods are more direct because the microwave radiation upwelling from the Earth is affected more by rain drops than by cloud droplets. These radiances viewed by a sensor outside the atmosphere are presented here as brightness temperature, the product of the thermodynamic temperature and emissivity of the surface viewed, modified by the intervening atmospheric constituents (water droplets, water vapour, gaseous absorption, and so on).
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Spencer, R., Martin, D., Hinton, B. et al. Satellite microwave radiances correlated with radar rain rates over land. Nature 304, 141–143 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1038/304141a0
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