In this study, we develop and compare satellite rainfall retrievals based on generalized linear models and artificial neural networks. Both approaches are used in classification mode in a first step to identify the precipitating areas (precipitation detection) and in regression mode in a second step to estimate the rainfall intensity at the ground (rain rate). The input predictors are geostationary satellite infrared (IR) brightness temperatures and Satellite Application Facility (SAF) nowcasting products which consist of cloud properties, such as cloud top height and cloud type. Additionally, a set of auxiliary location-describing input variables is employed. The output predictand is the ground-based instantaneous rain rate provided by the European-scale radar composite OPERA, that was additionally quality-controlled. We compare our results to a precipitation product which uses a single infrared (IR) channel for the rainfall retrieval. Specifically, we choose the operational PR-OBS-3 hydrology SAF product as a representative example for this type of approach. With generalized linear models, we show that we are able to substantially improve in terms of hits by considering more IR channels and cloud property predictors. Furthermore, we demonstrate the added value of using artificial neural networks to further improve prediction skill by additionally reducing false alarms. In the rain rate estimation, the indirect relationship between surface rain rates and the cloud properties measurable with geostationary satellites limit the skill of all models, which leads to smooth predictions close to the mean rainfall intensity. Probability matching is explored as a tool to recover higher order statistics to obtain a more realistic rain rate distribution.
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