Articles | Volume 17, issue 2
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 837–849, 2013

Special issue: Precipitation uncertainty and variability: observations, ensemble...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 837–849, 2013

Research article 28 Feb 2013

Research article | 28 Feb 2013

Evaluation of high-resolution satellite precipitation products using rain gauge observations over the Tibetan Plateau

Y. C. Gao1 and M. F. Liu1,2,3 Y. C. Gao and M. F. Liu
  • 1Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.O. Box 9719, Beijing, 100101, China
  • 2Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100039, China
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Abstract. High-resolution satellite precipitation products are very attractive for studying the hydrologic processes in mountainous areas where rain gauges are generally sparse. Four high-resolution satellite precipitation products are evaluated using gauge measurements over different climate zones of the Tibetan Plateau (TP) within a 6 yr period from 2004 to 2009. The four satellite-based precipitation data sets are: Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis 3B42 version 6 (TMPA) and its Real Time version (TMPART), Climate Prediction Center Morphing Technique (CMOPRH) and Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information using Artificial Neural Network (PERSIANN). TMPA and CMORPH, with higher correlation coefficients and lower root mean square errors (RMSEs), show overall better performance than PERSIANN and TMPART. TMPA has the lowest biases among the four precipitation data sets, which is likely due to the correction process against the monthly gauge observations from global precipitation climatology project (GPCP). TMPA also shows large improvement over TMPART, indicating the importance of gauge-based correction on accuracy of rainfall. The four products show better agreement with gauge measurements over humid regions than that over arid regions where correlation coefficients are less than 0.5. Moreover, the four precipitation products generally tend to overestimate light rainfall (0–10 mm) and underestimate moderate and heavy rainfall (>10 mm). Moreover, this study extracts 24 topographic variables from a DEM (digital elevation model) and uses a linear regression model to explore the bias–topography relationship. Results show that biases of TMPA and CMORPH present weak dependence on topography. However, biases of TMPART and PERSIANN present dependence on topography and variability of elevation and surface roughness plays important roles in explaining their biases.