Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Castro L., Gironás J., Fernández B. (2014)

Spatial estimation of daily precipitation in regions with complex relief and scarce data using terrain orientation

Revista : Journal of Hydrology
Volumen : 517
Páginas : 481-492
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Precipitation is the most relevant variable in the hydrological cycle which drives continental hydrologicprocesses. Its spatial occurrence and behavior are complex and its daily estimation is hard in poorlygauged regions where the topography is highly irregular. Several interpolation methods are available for this purpose, but their performance is quite uncertain. This study develops a spatial interpolation method for daily precipitation that considers both spatial discontinuities and the influence of topography. The method first identifies the precipitation occurrence in each grid-cell as a function of measurements in surrounding rain gauges, and then uses daily elevation vs. precipitation linear regressions throughout the grid-cells where precipitation occurrence is identified. These regressions are classified according to the terrain orientation with respect to the prevailing wind direction. The method was evaluated using categorical statistics that quantify the skill to identify the precipitation occurrence/non-occurrence, andgoodness-of-fit statistics to evaluate the error and efficiency. The methodology was compared againstinverse distance weighted and simple regression methods, which were implemented considering bothcontinuous and discontinuous precipitation fields. The new method better simulates the occurrence of precipitation, whereas traditional methods applied without considering the spatial discontinuity of precipitationtend to overestimate the frequency of the rainfall events, and thus the magnitude of precipitation at the basin scale. When spatial discontinuity is considered, traditional methods improve their performance and are comparable to the proposed method. Overall, the new method increases the number of days in which elevation vs. precipitation linear regression can be used, thus improving the spatial representation of precipitation in areas with complex relief.