Spatial and temporal modeling of radar rainfall uncertainties

Gabriele Villarini, Bong Chul Seo, Francesco Serinaldi, Witold F. Krajewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


It is widely acknowledged that radar-based estimates of rainfall are affected by uncertainties (e.g., mis-calibration, beam blockage, anomalous propagation, and ground clutter) which are both systematic and random in nature. Improving the characterization of these errors would yield better understanding and interpretations of results from studies in which these estimates are used as inputs (e.g., hydrologic modeling) or initial conditions (e.g., rainfall forecasting).Building on earlier efforts, the authors apply a data-driven multiplicative model in which the relationship between true rainfall and radar rainfall can be described in terms of the product of a systematic and random component. The systematic component accounts for conditional biases. The conditional bias is approximated by a power-law function. The random component, which represents the random fluctuations remaining after correcting for systematic uncertainties, is characterized in terms of its probability distribution as well as its spatial and temporal dependencies. The space-time dependencies are computed using the non-parametric Kendall's τ measure. For the first time, the authors present a methodology based on conditional copulas to generate ensembles of random error fields with the prescribed marginal probability distribution and spatio-temporal dependencies.The methodology is illustrated using data from Clear Creek, which is a densely instrumented experimental watershed in eastern Iowa. Results are based on three years of radar data from the Davenport Weather Surveillance Radar 88 Doppler (WSR-88D) radar that were processed through the Hydro-NEXRAD system. The spatial and temporal resolutions are 0.5. km and hourly, respectively, and the radar data are complemented by rainfall measurements from 11 rain gages, located within the catchment, which are used to approximate true ground rainfall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Research
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


  • Rainfall
  • Space-time modeling
  • Uncertainty
  • Weather radar


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