Precipitation frequency analyses based on radar estimates: An evaluation over the contiguous United States


McGraw D, Nikolopoulos EI, Marra F, Anagnostou EN. Precipitation frequency analyses based on radar estimates: An evaluation over the contiguous United States. Journal of Hydrology [Internet]. 2019.


The lack of knowledge on precipitation frequency over ungauged areas introduces a significant source of uncertainty in relevant engineering designs and risk estimation procedures. Radar-based observations offer precipitation information over ungauged areas and thus have gained increasing attention as a potential solution to this problem. However, due to their relative short data records and inherent uncertainty sources, their ability to provide accurate estimates on the frequency of precipitation extremes requires evaluation. This study involves the evaluation of at-site precipitation frequency estimates from NEXRAD Stage IV radar precipitation dataset. We derive precipitation annual maxima series from the 16yrs record (2002-2017) of NEXRAD and we compare against 539 long-term (50yrs) hourly gauge records. In addition, Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) curves are estimated from both radar and gauge dataset and compared. IDF estimation is based on fitting the Generalize Extreme Value distribution to annual precipitation maxima. Evaluation is carried out over the contiguous United States and results are grouped and presented for five dominant climate classes and for a range of return period and precipitation durations. NEXRAD was shown to overestimate intensities at shorter durations (1- and 3-hr) and low quantiles, while it tends to underestimate higher quantiles at longer durations (24hr). In addition, evaluation of the IDF curves estimated from NEXRAD revealed a distinct geographic dependence with certain regions exhibiting a tendency to overestimation (e.g. east of the Rocky Mountains) or underestimation (Midwest). Overall, this analysis suggests that, while significant discrepancies may exist, there are several cases where NEXRAD provide estimates within the uncertainty bounds of the reference rain gauge dataset. The climate/geographic region and the temporal duration are important aspects to consider. Findings provided in this work on these aspects will hopefully serve as a general guideline for those interested in using NEXRAD estimates for further research or applications on precipitation extremes.