Storm Catalog-Based Analysis of Rainfall Heterogeneity and Frequency in a Complex Terrain

Zhengzheng Zhou, James A. Smith, Daniel B. Wright, Mary Lynn Baeck, Long Yang, Shuguang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Urban development, topographic relief, and coastal boundaries can all exert influences on storm hydroclimatology, making rainfall and flood frequency analysis a major challenge. This study explores heterogeneity in extreme rainfall in the Baltimore Metropolitan region at small spatial scales using hydrometeorological analyses of major storm events in combination with hydroclimatological analyses based on storm catalogs developed using a 16-year record of high-resolution bias-corrected radar rainfall fields. Our analyses demonstrate the potential for rainfall frequency methods using storm catalogs combined with stochastic storm transposition (SST); procedures are implemented for Dead Run, a small (14.3 km2) urban watershed located within the Baltimore Metropolitan area. The results point to the pronounced impact of complex terrain (including the Chesapeake Bay to the east, mountainous terrain to the west and urbanization in the region) on the regional rainfall climatology. Warm-season thunderstorm systems are shown to be the dominant mechanism for generating extreme, short-duration rainfall that leads to flash flooding. The SST approach is extended through the implementation of a multiplier field that accounts for spatial heterogeneities in extreme rainfall magnitude. SST-based analyses demonstrate the need to consider rainfall heterogeneity at multiple scales when estimating the rainfall intensity-duration-frequency relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1871-1889
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • extreme rainfall heterogeneity
  • rainfall frequency analysis
  • stochastic storm transposition


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