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Simon Ageet, Andreas H. Fink, Marlon Maranan, Jeremy E. Diem, Joel Hartter, Andrew L. Ssali, and Prosper Ayabagabo


Rain gauge data sparsity over Africa is known to impede the assessments of hydrometeorological risks and of the skill of numerical weather prediction models. Satellite rainfall estimates (SREs) have been used as surrogate fields for a long time and are continuously replaced by more advanced algorithms and new sensors. Using a unique daily rainfall dataset from 36 stations across equatorial East Africa for the period 2001–18, this study performs a multiscale evaluation of gauge-calibrated SREs, namely, IMERG, TMPA, CHIRPS, and MSWEP (v2.2 and v2.8). Skills were assessed from daily to annual time scales, for extreme daily precipitation, and for TMPA and IMERG near-real-time (NRT) products. Results show that 1) the SREs reproduce the annual rainfall pattern and seasonal rainfall cycle well, despite exhibiting biases of up to 9%; 2) IMERG is the best for shorter temporal scales while MSWEPv2.2 and CHIRPS perform best at the monthly and annual time steps, respectively; 3) the performance of all the SREs varies spatially, likely due to an inhomogeneous degree of gauge calibration, with the largest variation seen in MSWEPv2.2; 4) all the SREs miss between 79% (IMERG-NRT) and 98% (CHIRPS) of daily extreme rainfall events recorded by the rain gauges; 5) IMERG-NRT is the best regarding extreme event detection and accuracy; and 6) for return values of extreme rainfall, IMERG, and MSWEPv2.2 have the least errors while CHIRPS and MSWEPv2.8 cannot be recommended. The study also highlights improvements of IMERG over TMPA, the decline in performance of MSWEPv2.8 compared to MSWEPv2.2, and the potential of SREs for flood risk assessment over East Africa.

Open access
Joël Arnault, Thomas Rummler, Florian Baur, Sebastian Lerch, Sven Wagner, Benjamin Fersch, Zhenyu Zhang, Noah Kerandi, Christian Keil, and Harald Kunstmann


Precipitation is affected by soil moisture spatial variability. However, this variability is not well represented in atmospheric models that do not consider soil moisture transport as a three-dimensional process. This study investigates the sensitivity of precipitation to the uncertainty in the representation of terrestrial water flow. The tools used for this investigation are the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model and its hydrologically enhanced version, WRF-Hydro, applied over central Europe during April–October 2008. The model grid is convection permitting, with a horizontal spacing of 2.8 km. The WRF-Hydro subgrid employs a 280-m resolution to resolve lateral terrestrial water flow. A WRF/WRF-Hydro ensemble is constructed by modifying the parameter controlling the partitioning between surface runoff and infiltration and by varying the planetary boundary layer (PBL) scheme. This ensemble represents terrestrial water flow uncertainty originating from the consideration of resolved lateral flow, terrestrial water flow uncertainty in the vertical direction, and turbulence parameterization uncertainty. The uncertainty of terrestrial water flow noticeably increases the normalized ensemble spread of daily precipitation where topography is moderate, surface flux spatial variability is high, and the weather regime is dominated by local processes. The adjusted continuous ranked probability score shows that the PBL uncertainty improves the skill of an ensemble subset in reproducing daily precipitation from the E-OBS observational product by 16%–20%. In comparison to WRF, WRF-Hydro improves this skill by 0.4%–0.7%. The reproduction of observed daily discharge with Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency coefficients generally above 0.3 demonstrates the potential of WRF-Hydro in hydrological science.

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Thomas Engel, Andreas H. Fink, Peter Knippertz, Gregor Pante, and Jan Bliefernicht


Two extreme, high-impact events of heavy rainfall and severe floods in West African urban areas (Ouagadougou on 1 September 2009 and Dakar on 26 August 2012) are investigated with respect to their atmospheric causes and statistical return periods. In terms of the synoptic–convective dynamics, the Ouagadougou case is truly extraordinary. A succession of two slow-moving African easterly waves (AEWs) caused record-breaking values of tropospheric moisture. The second AEW, one of the strongest in recent decades, provided the synoptic forcing for the nighttime genesis of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Ouagadougou was hit by two MCSs within 6 h, as the strong convergence and rotation in the AEW-related vortex allowed a swift moisture refueling. An AEW was also instrumental in the overnight development of MCSs in the Dakar case, but neither the AEW vortex nor the tropospheric moisture content was as exceptional as in the Ouagadougou case. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 precipitation data show some promise in estimating centennial return values (RVs) using the “peak over threshold” approach with a generalized Pareto distribution fit, although indications for errors in estimating extreme rainfall over the arid Sahel are found. In contrast, the Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks–Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR) dataset seems less suitable for this purpose despite the longer record. Notably, the Ouagadougou event demonstrates that highly unusual dynamical developments can create extremes well outside of RV estimates from century-long rainfall observations. Future research will investigate whether such developments may become more frequent in a warmer climate.

Open access