Weather radar systems provide detailed information on spatial rainfall patterns known to play a significant role in runoff generation processes. In the current study, we present an innovative approach to exploit spatial rainfall information of air mass thunderstorms and link it with a watershed hydrological model. Observed radar data are decomposed into sets of rain cells conceptualized as circular Gaussian elements and the associated rain cell parameters, namely, location, maximal intensity and decay factor, are input into a hydrological model. Rain cells were retrieved from radar data for several thunderstorms over southern Arizona. Spatial characteristics of the resulting rain fields were evaluated using data from a dense rain gauge network. For an extreme case study in a semi-arid watershed, rain cells were derived and fed as input into a hydrological model to compute runoff response. A major factor in this event was found to be a single intense rain cell (out of the five cells decomposed from the storm). The path of this cell near watershed tributaries and toward the outlet enhanced generation of high flow. Furthermore, sensitivity analysis to cell characteristics indicated that peak discharge could be a factor of two higher if the cell was initiated just a few kilometers aside.
Weather radar data contain detailed information about the spatial structures of rain fields previously unavail- able from conventional rain gauge networks. This information is of major importance for enhancing our understanding of precipitation and hydrometeorological systems. This study focuses on spatial features of convective rain cells in southern Israel where the climate ranges fromMediterranean to hyper-arid. Extensive data bases from two study areas covered by radar systems were analyzed. Rain cell features were extracted such as center location, area, maximal rain intensity, spatial integral of rain intensity, major radius length, minor radius length, ellipticity, and orientation. Rain cells in the two study areas were compared in terms of feature distributions and the functional relationships between cell area and cell magnitude, represented by maximal rain intensity and spatial integral of rain intensity. Analytical distribution functions were fitted to the empirical distributions and the log-normal function was found to fit well the distributions of cell area, maximal rain intensity and major and minor radius lengths. The normal distribution fits well ellipticity em- pirical distribution, and orientation distribution was well-represented by the normal or uniform distribution functions. The effect of distance fromtheMediterranean coastline on cell features was assessed. Amaximum of cell rain intensity at the coastline and maximum cell density 15 km inland from the coastline were found. In addition, a gradual change of cell orientation was observed with a northwest-southeast orientation 30 km from the coastline at the Mediterranean Sea and to almost a west-east orientation 30 km from the coastline inland