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Country-wide rainfall maps from cellular communication networks
- Overeem, Aart, Leijnse, Hidde, Uijlenhoet, Remko
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2013 v.110 no.8 pp. 2741-2745
- algorithms, climate, monitoring, prediction, radio, rain, rain intensity, satellites, water management, Netherlands
- Accurate and timely surface precipitation measurements are crucial for water resources management, agriculture, weather prediction, climate research, as well as ground validation of satellite-based precipitation estimates. However, the majority of the land surface of the earth lacks such data, and in many parts of the world the density of surface precipitation gauging networks is even rapidly declining. This development can potentially be counteracted by using received signal level data from the enormous number of microwave links used worldwide in commercial cellular communication networks. Along such links, radio signals propagate from a transmitting antenna at one base station to a receiving antenna at another base station. Rain-induced attenuation and, subsequently, path-averaged rainfall intensity can be retrieved from the signal’s attenuation between transmitter and receiver. Here, we show how one such a network can be used to retrieve the space–time dynamics of rainfall for an entire country (The Netherlands, ∼35,500 km ²), based on an unprecedented number of links (∼2,400) and a rainfall retrieval algorithm that can be applied in real time. This demonstrates the potential of such networks for real-time rainfall monitoring, in particular in those parts of the world where networks of dedicated ground-based rainfall sensors are often virtually absent.