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TRMM Satellite Reveals Flooding Rains from Massive East Coast Storm

March 15, 2011

The massive rain storm that stretched from New York to Florida last week dropped some record rainfall and NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite measured that rainfall from space. Those rainfall totals were assembled in a “rain map” created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Although the heaviest rainfall last week was in the southern United States, flooding was reported in states from Louisiana to northern New York. A rainfall analysis was created made by merging precipitation data from multiple satellites. This Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) analysis used data that were calibrated with TRMM precipitation data. These data are calculated and stored at NASA Goddard and are available within a few hours after being received by satellites.

The analysis indicated that the greatest total rainfall for the past week was over 300 mm (~11 inches) and was located over Alabama and Mississippi. Some of the extremely heavy rainfall in this area was associated with tornado spawning thunderstorms (see: http://trmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/publications_dir/tornadoes_7-10may11.html).

Much of the eastern United States was affected by rainfall totals of over 50 mm (~2 inches). As the weather system moved east, some of the most impressive rainfall totals in the Mid-Atlantic fell between Baltimore, Md. and Charlottesville, Va. On Thursday, March 10, Baltimore set a new daily rainfall record measuring 2.61 inches according to the National Weather Service. Charlottesville received 2.33 inches of rainfall from the system. To the west, Martinsburg, West Virginia also reported a daily record rainfall total of 1.26 inches. Many areas had flooding with totals that were less than the extreme amounts shown on the rainfall analysis.

Hal Pierce/Rob Gutro, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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