Rainfall and sampling uncertainties: A rain gauge perspective

Gabriele Villarini, Pradeep V. Mandapaka, Witold F. Krajewski, Robert J. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

364 Scopus citations


Rain gauge networks provide rainfall measurements with a high degree of accuracy at specific locations but, in most cases, the instruments are too sparsely distributed to accurately capture the high spatial and temporal variability of precipitation systems. Radar and satellite remote sensing of rainfall has become a viable approach to address this problem effectively. However, among other sources of uncertainties, the remote-sensing based rainfall products are unavoidably affected by sampling errors that need to be evaluated and characterized. Using a large data set (more than six years) of rainfall measurements from a dense network of 50 rain gauges deployed over an area of about 135 km2 in the Brue catchment (south-western England), this study sheds some light on the temporal and spatial sampling uncertainties: the former are defined as the errors resulting from temporal gaps in rainfall observations, while the latter as the uncertainties due to the approximation of an areal estimate using point measurements. It is shown that the temporal sampling uncertainties increase with the sampling interval according to a scaling law and decrease with increasing averaging area with no strong dependence on local orography. On the other hand, the spatial sampling uncertainties tend to decrease for increasing accumulation time, with no strong dependence on location of the gauge within the pixel or on the gauge elevation. For the evaluation of high resolution satellite rainfall products, a simple rule is proposed for the number of rain gauges required to estimate areal rainfall with a prescribed accuracy. Additionally, a description is given of the characteristics of the rainfall process in the area in terms of spatial correlation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD11102
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 16 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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