Exploratory Analysis of Precipitation Events with Implications for Stochastic Modeling

Barbara G. Brown Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331

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Richard W. Katz Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307

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Allan H. Murphy Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331

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Abstract

The use of a concept called a precipitation “event” to obtain information regarding certain statistical properties of precipitation time series at a particular location and for a specific application (e.g., for modeling erosion) is described. Exploratory data analysis is used to examine several characteristics of more than 31 years of primitive precipitation events based on hourly precipitation data at Salem, Oregon. A primitive precipitation event is defined as one or more consecutive hours with at least 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) of precipitation. The characteristics of the events that are considered include the duration, magnitude, average intensity and maximum intensity of the event and the number of hours separating consecutive events.

By means of exploratory analysis of the characteristics of the precipitation events, it is demonstrated that the marginal (i.e., unconditional) distributions of the characteristics are positively skewed. Examination of the conditional distributions of some pairs of characteristics indicates the existence of some relationships among the characteristics. For example, it is found that average intensity and maximum intensity are quite dependent on the event duration. The existence and forms of these relationships indicate that the assumption commonly made in stochastic models of hourly precipitation time series that the intensities (i.e., hourly amounts within an event) are independent and identically distributed must be violated. Again using exploratory data analysis, it is shown that the hourly intensities at Salem are, in fact, stochastically increasing and positively associated within a precipitation event.

Abstract

The use of a concept called a precipitation “event” to obtain information regarding certain statistical properties of precipitation time series at a particular location and for a specific application (e.g., for modeling erosion) is described. Exploratory data analysis is used to examine several characteristics of more than 31 years of primitive precipitation events based on hourly precipitation data at Salem, Oregon. A primitive precipitation event is defined as one or more consecutive hours with at least 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) of precipitation. The characteristics of the events that are considered include the duration, magnitude, average intensity and maximum intensity of the event and the number of hours separating consecutive events.

By means of exploratory analysis of the characteristics of the precipitation events, it is demonstrated that the marginal (i.e., unconditional) distributions of the characteristics are positively skewed. Examination of the conditional distributions of some pairs of characteristics indicates the existence of some relationships among the characteristics. For example, it is found that average intensity and maximum intensity are quite dependent on the event duration. The existence and forms of these relationships indicate that the assumption commonly made in stochastic models of hourly precipitation time series that the intensities (i.e., hourly amounts within an event) are independent and identically distributed must be violated. Again using exploratory data analysis, it is shown that the hourly intensities at Salem are, in fact, stochastically increasing and positively associated within a precipitation event.

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