Rainfall is a key link in the hydrologic cycle and is a primary heat source for the atmosphere. The vertical distribution of latent-heat release, which is accompanied by rainfall, modulates the large-scale circulations of the tropics and in turn can impact midlatitude weather. This latent heat release is a consequence of phase changes between vapor, liquid, and solid water. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint U.S./Japan space project, was launched in November 1997. It provides an accurate measurement of rainfall over the global tropics which can be used to estimate the four-dimensional structure of latent heating over the global tropics. The distributions of rainfall and inferred heating can be used to advance our understanding of the global energy and water cycle. This paper describes several different algorithms for estimating latent heating using TRMM observations. The strengths and weaknesses of each algorithm as well as the heating products are also discussed. The validation of heating products will be exhibited. Finally, the application of this heating information to global circulation and climate models is presented.
Goddard Space Flight Center; Jet Propulsion Laboratory