A Stochastic Precipitation Disaggregation Scheme for GCM Applications

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  • 1 Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
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Abstract

In the surface hydrologic pararmeterization of general circulation models (GCMs), it is commonly assumed that the precipitation processes are homogeneous over a GCM grid square and that the precipitation intensity is uniformly distributed. Based on evidence that the spatial distribution of precipitation within a GCM grid square is crucial for the land surface hydrology parameterization, a few researchers have explored the impacts of assuming that the precipitation is exponentially distributed. This paper explores the suitability of the afore-mentioned assumptions. First, a statistical analysis is conducted of historical precipitation data for three GCM grids in different regions of the United States. The analysis suggests that neither the uniform nor the exponential distribution assumption may be suitable at the GCM grid scale and, that instead, the spatial variability in precipitation is characterized by statistical patterns that are inhomogeneous. These patterns vary from grid to grid and are induced by the interaction between atmospheric conditions and various land surface characteristics, such as topographical features, surface properties, etc. Within the same grid square, however, the statistical patterns are generally constant from year to year. Based on this analysis, a computationally viable (i.e., usable with GCMs) stochastic precipitation disaggregation scheme that utilizes these stable statistical patterns is proposed. The method was used to generate spatially distributed hourly rainfall for a summer season in the southwestern region of the continental United States. Analysis of the results shows that the methodology preserves the seasonal characteristics of spatial variability in precipitation that is observed in the long-term historical data.

Abstract

In the surface hydrologic pararmeterization of general circulation models (GCMs), it is commonly assumed that the precipitation processes are homogeneous over a GCM grid square and that the precipitation intensity is uniformly distributed. Based on evidence that the spatial distribution of precipitation within a GCM grid square is crucial for the land surface hydrology parameterization, a few researchers have explored the impacts of assuming that the precipitation is exponentially distributed. This paper explores the suitability of the afore-mentioned assumptions. First, a statistical analysis is conducted of historical precipitation data for three GCM grids in different regions of the United States. The analysis suggests that neither the uniform nor the exponential distribution assumption may be suitable at the GCM grid scale and, that instead, the spatial variability in precipitation is characterized by statistical patterns that are inhomogeneous. These patterns vary from grid to grid and are induced by the interaction between atmospheric conditions and various land surface characteristics, such as topographical features, surface properties, etc. Within the same grid square, however, the statistical patterns are generally constant from year to year. Based on this analysis, a computationally viable (i.e., usable with GCMs) stochastic precipitation disaggregation scheme that utilizes these stable statistical patterns is proposed. The method was used to generate spatially distributed hourly rainfall for a summer season in the southwestern region of the continental United States. Analysis of the results shows that the methodology preserves the seasonal characteristics of spatial variability in precipitation that is observed in the long-term historical data.

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