The complex problem of quantitative precipitation estimation in the Alpine region is tackled from four different points of view: (1) the modern MeteoSwiss network of automatic telemetered rain gauges (GAUGE); (2) the recently upgraded MeteoSwiss dual-polarization Doppler, ground-based weather radar network (RADAR); (3) a real-time merging of GAUGE and RADAR, implemented at MeteoSwiss, in which a technique based on co-kriging with external drift (CombiPrecip) is used; (4) spaceborne observations, acquired by the dual-wavelength precipitation radar on board the Global Precipitation Measuring (GPM) core satellite. There are obviously large differences in these sampling modes, which we have tried to minimize by integrating synchronous observations taken during the first 2 years of the GPM mission. The data comprises 327 “wet” overpasses of Switzerland, taken after the launch of GPM in February 2014. By comparing the GPM radar estimates with the MeteoSwiss products, a similar performance was found in terms of bias. On average (whole country, all days and seasons, both solid and liquid phases), underestimation is as large as −3.0 (−3.4) dB with respect to RADAR (GAUGE). GPM is not suitable for assessing what product is the best in terms of average precipitation over the Alps. GPM can nevertheless be used to evaluate the dispersion of the error around the mean, which is a measure of the geographical distribution of the error inside the country. Using 221 rain-gauge sites, the result is clear both in terms of correlation and in terms of scatter (a robust, weighted measure of the dispersion of the multiplicative error around the mean). The best agreement was observed between GPM and CombiPrecip, and, next, between GPM and RADAR, whereas a larger disagreement was found between GPM and GAUGE. Hence, GPM confirms that, for precipitation mapping in the Alpine region, the best results are obtained by combining ground-based radar with rain-gauge measurements using a geostatistical approach. The GPM mission is adding significant new coverage to mountainous areas, especially in poorly instrumented parts of the world and at latitudes not previously covered by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). According to this study, one could expect an underestimation of the precipitation product by the dual-frequency precipitation radar (DPR) also in other mountainous areas of the world.
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