Two simple metrics for quantifying rainfall intermittency: The burstiness and memory of interamount times

Marc Schleiss, James A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Precipitation displays a remarkable variability in space and time. An important yet poorly documented aspect of this variability is intermittency. In this paper, a new way of quantifying intermittency based on the burstiness B and memory M of interamount times is proposed. The method is applied to a unique dataset of 325 high-resolution rain gauges in the United States and Europe. Results show that theM-B diagram provides useful insight into local precipitation patterns and can be used to study intermittency over a wide range of temporal scales. It is found that precipitation tends to be more intermittent in warm and dry climates with the largest observed values in the southwest of the United States (i.e., California, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas). Low-to-moderate values are reported for the northeastern United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany. In the second half of the paper, the new metrics are applied to daily rainfall data for 1954-2013 to investigate regional trends in intermittency due to climate variability and global warming. No evidence is found of a global shift in intermittency but a weak trend toward burstier precipitation patterns and longer dry spells in the south of Europe (i.e., Portugal, Spain, and Italy) and an opposite trend toward steadier and more correlated precipitation patterns in Norway, Sweden, and Finland is observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-436
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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