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Gourley J. J., D. P. Jorgensen, S. Y. Matrosov and Z. L. Flamig (December 2009): Evaluation of Incremental Improvements to Quantitative Precipitation Estimates in Complex Terrain. J. Hydrometeor., 10 (6), 1507-1520. doi:10.1175/2009JHM1125.1

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Advanced remote sensing and in situ observing systems employed during the Hydrometeorological Testbed experiment on the American River basin near Sacramento, California, provided a unique opportunity to evaluate correction procedures applied to gap-filling, experimental radar precipitation products in complex terrain. The evaluation highlighted improvements in hourly radar rainfall estimation due to optimizing the parameters in the reflectivity-to-rainfall (Z–R) relation, correcting for the range dependence in estimating R due to the vertical variability in Z in snow and melting-layer regions, and improving low-altitude radar coverage by merging rainfall estimates from two research radars operating at different frequencies and polarization states. This evaluation revealed that although the rainfall product from research radars provided the smallest bias relative to gauge estimates, in terms of the root-mean-square error (with the bias removed) and Pearson correlation coefficient it did not outperform the product from a nearby operational radar that used optimized Z–R relations and was corrected for range dependence. This result was attributed to better low-altitude radar coverage with the operational radar over the upper part of the basin. In these regions, the data from the X-band research radar were not available and the C-band research radar was forced to use higher-elevation angles as a result of nearby terrain and tree blockages, which yielded greater uncertainty in surface rainfall estimates. This study highlights the challenges in siting experimental radars in complex terrain. Last, the corrections developed for research radar products were adapted and applied to an operational radar, thus providing a simple transfer of research findings to operational rainfall products yielding significantly improved skill.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: PSD Publications
Divisions: Physical Sciences Division
DOI: 10.1175/2009JHM1125.1