Opportunistic remote sensing of rainfall using microwave links from cellular communication networks

Remko Uijlenhoet*, Aart Overeem, Hidde Leijnse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Microwave backhaul links from cellular communication networks provide a valuable “opportunistic” source of high‐resolution space–time rainfall information, complementing traditional in situ measurement devices (rain gauges, disdrometers) and remote sensors (weather radars, satellites). Over the past decade, a growing community of researchers has, in close collaboration with cellular communication companies, developed retrieval algorithms to convert the raw microwave link signals, stored operationally by their network management systems, to hydrometeorologically useful rainfall estimates. Operational meteorological and hydrological services as well as private consulting firms are showing an increased interest in using this complementary source of rainfall information to improve the products and services they provide to end users from different sectors, from water management and weather prediction to agriculture and traffic control. The greatest potential of these opportunistic environmental sensors lies in those geographical areas over the land surface of the Earth where the densities of traditional rainfall measurement devices are low: mountainous and urban areas and the developing world. This article provides a nonexpert summary of the history, theory, challenges, and opportunities toward continental‐scale rainfall monitoring using microwave links from cellular communication networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1289
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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