Radar subpixel-scale rainfall variability and uncertainty: Lessons learned from observations of a dense rain-gauge network


Peleg N, Ben-Asher M, Morin E. Radar subpixel-scale rainfall variability and uncertainty: Lessons learned from observations of a dense rain-gauge network. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences [Internet]. 2013;17 :2195–2208.


Runoff and flash flood generation are very sensitive to rainfall's$\backslash$nspatial and temporal variability. The increasing use of radar and$\backslash$nsatellite data in hydrological applications, due to the sparse$\backslash$ndistribution of rain gauges over most catchments worldwide, requires$\backslash$nfurthering our knowledge of the uncertainties of these data. In 2011, a$\backslash$nnew super-dense network of rain gauges containing 14 stations, each with$\backslash$ntwo side-by-side gauges, was installed within a 4 km(2) study area near$\backslash$nKibbutz Galed in northern Israel. This network was established for a$\backslash$ndetailed exploration of the uncertainties and errors regarding rainfall$\backslash$nvariability within a common pixel size of data obtained from remote$\backslash$nsensing systems for timescales of 1 min to daily. In this paper, we$\backslash$npresent the analysis of the first year's record collected from this$\backslash$nnetwork and from the Shacham weather radar, located 63 km from the study$\backslash$narea. The gauge-rainfall spatial correlation and uncertainty were$\backslash$nexamined along with the estimated radar error. The nugget parameter of$\backslash$nthe inter-gauge rainfall correlations was high (0.92 on the 1 min scale)$\backslash$nand increased as the timescale increased. The variance reduction factor$\backslash$n(VRF), representing the uncertainty from averaging a number of rain$\backslash$nstations per pixel, ranged from 1.6% for the 1 min timescale to 0.07%$\backslash$nfor the daily scale. It was also found that at least three rain stations$\backslash$nare needed to adequately represent the rainfall (VRF\textless 5 %) on a typical$\backslash$nradar pixel scale. The difference between radar and rain gauge rainfall$\backslash$nwas mainly attributed to radar estimation errors, while the gauge$\backslash$nsampling error contributed up to 20% to the total difference. The ratio$\backslash$nof radar rainfall to gauge-areal-averaged rainfall, expressed by the$\backslash$nerror distribution scatter parameter, decreased from 5.27 dB for 3 min$\backslash$ntimescale to 3.21 dB for the daily scale. The analysis of the radar$\backslash$nerrors and uncertainties suggest that a temporal scale of at least 10$\backslash$nmin should be used for hydrological applications of the radar data.$\backslash$nRainfall measurements collected with this dense rain gauge network will$\backslash$nbe used for further examination of small-scale rainfall's spatial and$\backslash$ntemporal variability in the coming years.