Use of radar QPE for the derivation of Intensity–Duration–Frequency curves in a range of climatic regimes


Intensity–Duration–Frequency (IDF) curves are widely used in flood risk management because they provide an easy link between the characteristics of a rainfall event and the probability of its occurrence. Weather radars provide distributed rainfall estimates with high spatial and temporal resolutions and overcome the scarce representativeness of point-based rainfall for regions characterized by large gradients in rainfall climatology. This work explores the use of radar quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) for the identification of IDF curves over a region with steep climatic transitions (Israel) using a unique radar data record (23yr) and combined physical and empirical adjustment of the radar data. IDF relationships were derived by fitting a generalized extreme value distribution to the annual maximum series for durations of 20min, 1h and 4h. Arid, semi-arid and Mediterranean climates were explored using 14 study cases. IDF curves derived from the study rain gauges were compared to those derived from radar and from nearby rain gauges characterized by similar climatology, taking into account the uncertainty linked with the fitting technique. Radar annual maxima and IDF curves were generally overestimated but in 70% of the cases (60% for a 100yr return period), they lay within the rain gauge IDF confidence intervals. Overestimation tended to increase with return period, and this effect was enhanced in arid climates. This was mainly associated with radar estimation uncertainty, even if other effects, such as rain gauge temporal resolution, cannot be neglected. Climatological classification remained meaningful for the analysis of rainfall extremes and radar was able to discern climatology from rainfall frequency analysis.