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Temporal Sampling Requirements for Automatic Rain Gauges

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  • 1 Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

Automatic rain gauges are needed to obtain rainfall statistics from remote locations and platforms. Many of these platforms cannot be serviced regularly, thus requiring unattended operations for many months. At such locations there is often a power consumption limitation requiring that the instrument operate at a fractional duty cycle. For instruments that measure rainfall rate rather than rainfall accumulation, both components of duty cycle—sample duration and sample interval—need to be considered. A 17-month-long record of rainfall was recorded in Miami, Florida. This location is subtropical and has an annual rainy season. These data are subsampled using different duty cycles to assess resulting sampling error. Using 1-min rainfall-rate samples, a duty cycle of 10% produces an expected standard deviation in monthly rainfall accumulation equal to 10% of the mean accumulation. This relationship held true for 15 of the 17 months of data. Two months with very low total accumulations (November 1993 and March 1994, both winter season months) had higher errors. For a fixed duty cycle, sampling error is proportional to both sampling duration and sample interval.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jeffrey A. Nystuen, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th Street, Seattle, WA 98105-6698.

Abstract

Automatic rain gauges are needed to obtain rainfall statistics from remote locations and platforms. Many of these platforms cannot be serviced regularly, thus requiring unattended operations for many months. At such locations there is often a power consumption limitation requiring that the instrument operate at a fractional duty cycle. For instruments that measure rainfall rate rather than rainfall accumulation, both components of duty cycle—sample duration and sample interval—need to be considered. A 17-month-long record of rainfall was recorded in Miami, Florida. This location is subtropical and has an annual rainy season. These data are subsampled using different duty cycles to assess resulting sampling error. Using 1-min rainfall-rate samples, a duty cycle of 10% produces an expected standard deviation in monthly rainfall accumulation equal to 10% of the mean accumulation. This relationship held true for 15 of the 17 months of data. Two months with very low total accumulations (November 1993 and March 1994, both winter season months) had higher errors. For a fixed duty cycle, sampling error is proportional to both sampling duration and sample interval.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jeffrey A. Nystuen, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 1013 NE 40th Street, Seattle, WA 98105-6698.

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