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Yiwen Mei, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, and Marco Borga
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Marika Koukoula, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Zoi Dokou, and Emmanouil N. Anagnostou

Abstract

Water resources reanalysis (WRR) can be used as a numerical tool to advance our understanding of hydrological processes where in situ observations are limited. However, WRR products are associated with uncertainty that needs to be quantified to improve usability of such products in water resources applications. In this study, we evaluate estimates of water cycle components from 18 state-of-the-art WRR datasets derived from different land surface/hydrological models, meteorological forcing, and precipitation datasets. The evaluation was conducted at three spatial scales in the upper Blue Nile basin in Ethiopia. Precipitation, streamflow, evapotranspiration (ET), and terrestrial water storage (TWS) were evaluated against in situ daily precipitation and streamflow measurements, remote sensing–derived ET, and the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) product, respectively. Our results highlight the current strengths and limitations of the available WRR datasets in analyzing the hydrological cycle and dynamics of the study basins, showing an overall underestimation of ET and TWS and overestimation of streamflow. While calibration improves streamflow simulation, it results in a relatively poorer performance in terms of ET. In addition, we show that the differences in the schemes used in the various land surface models resulted in significant differences in the estimation of the water cycle components from the respective WRR products, while we noted small differences among the products related to precipitation forcing. We did not identify a single product that consistently outperformed others; however, we found that there are specific WRR products that provided accurate representation of a single component of the water cycle (e.g., only runoff) in the area.

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Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, and Marco Borga

Abstract

Effective flash flood warning procedures are usually hampered by observational limitations of precipitation over mountainous basins where flash floods occur. Satellite rainfall estimates are available over complex terrain regions, offering a potentially viable solution to the observational coverage problem. However, satellite estimates of heavy rainfall rates are associated with significant biases and random errors that nonlinearly propagate in hydrologic modeling, imposing severe limitations on the use of these products in flood forecasting. In this study, the use of three quasi-global and near-real-time high-resolution satellite rainfall products for simulating flash floods over complex terrain basins are investigated. The study uses a major flash flood event that occurred during 29 August 2003 on a medium size mountainous basin (623 km2) in the eastern Italian Alps. Comparison of satellite rainfall with rainfall derived from gauge-calibrated weather radar estimates showed that although satellite products suffer from large biases they could represent the temporal variability of basin-averaged precipitation. Propagation of satellite rainfall through a distributed hydrologic model revealed that systematic error in rainfall was severely magnified when transformed to error in runoff under dry initial soil conditions. Simulation hydrographs became meaningful only after recalibrating the model for each satellite rainfall input separately. However, the unrealistic values of model parameters after recalibration show that this approach is erroneous and that model recalibration using satellite rainfall data should be treated with care. Overall, this study highlights the need for improvement of satellite rainfall retrieval algorithms in order to allow a more appropriate use of satellite rainfall products for flash flood applications.

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Md. Abul Ehsan Bhuiyan, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, and Emmanouil N. Anagnostou

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This study evaluates a machine learning–based precipitation ensemble technique (MLPET) over three mountainous tropical regions. The technique, based on quantile regression forests, integrates global satellite precipitation datasets from CMORPH, PERSIANN, GSMaP (V6), and 3B42 (V7) and an atmospheric reanalysis precipitation product (EI_GPCC) with daily soil moisture, specific humidity, and terrain elevation datasets. The complex terrain study areas include the Peruvian and Colombian Andes in South America and the Blue Nile in East Africa. Evaluation is performed at a daily time scale and 0.25° spatial resolution based on 13 years (2000–12) of reference rainfall data derived from dense in situ rain gauge networks. The technique is evaluated using K-fold, separately in each region, and leave-one-region-out validation experiments. Comparison of MLPET with the individual satellite and reanalysis precipitation datasets used for the blending and the recent Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation (MSWEP) global precipitation product exhibited improved systematic and random error statistics for all regions. In addition, it is shown that observations are encapsulated well within the ensemble envelope generated by the blending technique.

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Dimitrios Stampoulis, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, and Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos

Abstract

Heavy precipitation events (HPE) can incur significant economic losses as well as losses of lives through catastrophic floods. Evidence of increasing heavy precipitation at continental and global scales clearly emphasizes the need to accurately quantify these phenomena. The current study focuses on the error analysis of two of the main quasi-global, high-resolution satellite products [Climate Prediction Center (CPC) morphing technique (CMORPH) and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Imagery Using Artificial Neural Networks (PERSIANN)], using rainfall data derived from high-quality weather radar rainfall estimates as a reference. This analysis is based on seven major flood-inducing HPEs that developed over complex terrain areas in northern Italy (Fella and Sessia regions) and southern France (Cevennes–Vivarais region). The storm cases were categorized as convective or stratiform based on their characteristics, including rainfall intensity, duration, and area coverage. The results indicate that precipitation type has an effect on the algorithm's ability to capture rainfall effectively. Convective storm cases exhibited greater rain rate retrieval errors, while low rain rates in stratiform-type systems are not well captured by the satellite algorithms investigated in this study, thus leading to greater missed rainfall volumes. Overall, CMORPH exhibited better error statistics than PERSIANN for the HPEs of this study. Similarities are also shown in the two satellite products' error characteristics for the HPEs that occurred in the same geographical area.

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Yiwen Mei, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, and Marco Borga

Abstract

Accurate quantitative precipitation estimation over mountainous basins is of great importance because of their susceptibility to hazards such as flash floods, shallow landslides, and debris flows, triggered by heavy precipitation events (HPEs). In situ observations over mountainous areas are limited, but currently available satellite precipitation products can potentially provide the precipitation estimation needed for hydrological applications. In this study, four widely used satellite-based precipitation products [Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis (TMPA) 3B42, version 7 (3B42-V7), and in near–real time (3B42-RT); Climate Prediction Center (CPC) morphing technique (CMORPH); and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Imagery Using Artificial Neural Networks (PERSIANN)] are evaluated with respect to their performance in capturing the properties of HPEs over different basin scales. Evaluation is carried out over the upper Adige River basin (eastern Italian Alps) for an 8-yr period (2003–10). Basin-averaged rainfall derived from a dense rain gauge network in the region is used as a reference. Satellite precipitation error analysis is performed for warm (May–August) and cold (September–December) season months as well as for different quantile ranges of basin-averaged precipitation accumulations. Three error metrics and a score system are introduced to quantify the performances of the various satellite products. Overall, no single precipitation product can be considered ideal for detecting and quantifying HPE. Results show better consistency between gauges and the two 3B42 products, particularly during warm season months that are associated with high-intensity convective events. All satellite products are shown to have a magnitude-dependent error ranging from overestimation at low precipitation regimes to underestimation at high precipitation accumulations; this effect is more pronounced in the CMORPH and PERSIANN products.

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Yiwen Mei, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, and Marco Borga

Abstract

This study investigates the error characteristics of six quasi-global satellite precipitation products and their error propagation in flow simulations for a range of mountainous basin scales (255–6967 km2) and two different periods (May–August and September–November) in northeast Italy. Statistics describing the systematic and random error, the temporal similarity, and error ratios between precipitation and runoff are presented. Overall, strong over-/underestimation associated with the near-real-time 3B42/Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH) products is shown. Results suggest positive correlation between the systematic error and basin elevation. Performance evaluation of flow simulations yields a higher degree of consistency for the moderate to large basin scales and the May–August period. Gauge adjustment for the different satellite products is shown to moderate their error magnitude and increase their correlation with reference precipitation and streamflow simulations. Moreover, ratios of precipitation to streamflow simulation error metrics show dependencies in terms of magnitude and variability. Random error and temporal dissimilarity are shown to reduce from basin-average rainfall to the streamflow simulations, while the systematic error exhibits no clear pattern in the rainfall–runoff transformation.

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Efthymios Serpetzoglou, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Anastasios Papadopoulos, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, and Viviana Maggioni

Abstract

The study presents an in-depth investigation of the properties of remotely sensed rainfall error propagation in the prediction of near-surface soil moisture from a land surface model (LSM). Specifically, two error sources are compared: rainfall forcing due to estimation error by remote sensing techniques and the representation of land–atmospheric processes due to LSM uncertainty [the Community Land Model, version 3.5 (CLM3.5), was used in this particular study]. CLM3.5 is forced by three remotely sensed precipitation products, namely, two satellite-based estimates—NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) multisatellite precipitation analysis and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center morphing technique (CMORPH)—and a rain gauge-adjusted radar–rainfall product from the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network. The error analysis is performed for the warm seasons of 2004 and 2006 and is facilitated through the use of in situ measurements of soil moisture, rainfall, and other meteorological variables from a network of stations capturing the state of Oklahoma (Oklahoma Mesonet). The study also presents a rigorous benchmarking of the Mesonet network as to its accuracy in deriving area rainfall estimates at the resolution of satellite products (0.25° and 3 h) through comparisons against the most definitive measurements of a smaller-yet-denser network of rain gauges in southwestern Oklahoma (Micronet). The study compares error statistics between modeling and precipitation error sources and between the various remote sensing techniques. Results are contrasted between the relatively moist summer period of 2004 to the drier summer period of 2006, indicating model and error propagation dependencies. An intercomparison between rainfall and modeling error shows that the two error sources are of similar magnitudes in the case of high modeling accuracy (i.e., 2004), whereas the contribution of rainfall forcing error to the uncertainty of soil moisture prediction can be lower when the model’s efficiency skill is relatively low (i.e., 2006).

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Nikolaos S. Bartsotas, Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Stavros Solomos, and George Kallos

Abstract

Flash floods develop over small spatiotemporal scales, an attribute that makes their predictability a particularly challenging task. The serious threat they pose for human lives, along with damage estimates that can exceed one billion U.S. dollars in some cases, urge toward more accurate forecasting. Recent advances in computational science combined with state-of-the-art atmospheric models allow atmospheric simulations at very fine (i.e., subkilometer) grid scales, an element that is deemed important for capturing the initiation and evolution of flash flood–triggering storms. This work provides some evidence on the relative gain that can be expected from the adoption of such subkilometer model grids. A necessary insight into the complex processes of these severe incidents is provided through the simulation of three flood-inducing heavy precipitation events in the Alps for a range of model grid scales (0.25, 1, and 4 km) with the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System–Integrated Community Limited Area Modeling System (RAMS–ICLAMS) atmospheric model. A distributed hydrologic model [Kinematic Local Excess Model (KLEM)] is forced with the various atmospheric simulation outputs to further evaluate the relative impact of atmospheric model resolution on the hydrologic prediction. The use of a finer grid is beneficial in most cases, yet there are events where the improvement is marginal. This underlines why the use of finer scales is a step in the right direction but not a solitary component of a successful flash flood–forecasting recipe.

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Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Faisal Hossain, Mekonnen Gebremichael, and Marco Borga

Abstract

The study presents a data-based numerical experiment performed to understand the scale relationships of the error propagation of satellite rainfall for flood evaluation applications in complex terrain basins. A satellite rainfall error model is devised to generate rainfall ensembles based on two satellite products with different retrieval accuracies and space–time resolutions. The generated ensembles are propagated through a distributed physics-based hydrologic model to simulate the rainfall–runoff processes at different basin scales. The resulted hydrographs are compared against the hydrograph obtained by using high-resolution radar rainfall as the “reference” rainfall input. The error propagation of rainfall to stream runoff is evaluated for a number of basin scales ranging between 100 and 1200 km2. The results from this study show that (i) use of satellite rainfall for flood simulation depends strongly on the scale of application (catchment area) and the satellite product resolution, (ii) different satellite products perform differently in terms of hydrologic error propagation, and (iii) the propagation of error depends on the basin size; for example, this study shows that small watersheds (<400 km2) exhibit a higher ability in dampening the error from rainfall to runoff than larger-sized watersheds, although the actual error increases as drainage area decreases.

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