Articles | Volume 19, issue 8
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 3571–3584, 2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 3571–3584, 2015

Research article 14 Aug 2015

Research article | 14 Aug 2015

Measurement and interpolation uncertainties in rainfall maps from cellular communication networks

M. F. Rios Gaona1, A. Overeem1,2, H. Leijnse2, and R. Uijlenhoet1 M. F. Rios Gaona et al.
  • 1Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, 6708 PB Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2R&D Observations and Data Technology, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, 3731 GA De Bilt, the Netherlands

Abstract. Accurate measurements of rainfall are important in many hydrological and meteorological applications, for instance, flash-flood early-warning systems, hydraulic structures design, irrigation, weather forecasting, and climate modelling. Whenever possible, link networks measure and store the received power of the electromagnetic signal at regular intervals. The decrease in power can be converted to rainfall intensity, and is largely due to the attenuation by raindrops along the link paths. Such an alternative technique fulfils the continuous effort to obtain measurements of rainfall in time and space at higher resolutions, especially in places where traditional rain gauge networks are scarce or poorly maintained.

Rainfall maps from microwave link networks have recently been introduced at country-wide scales. Despite their potential in rainfall estimation at high spatiotemporal resolutions, the uncertainties present in rainfall maps from link networks are not yet fully comprehended. The aim of this work is to identify and quantify the sources of uncertainty present in interpolated rainfall maps from link rainfall depths. In order to disentangle these sources of uncertainty, we classified them into two categories: (1) those associated with the individual microwave link measurements, i.e. the errors involved in link rainfall retrievals, such as wet antenna attenuation, sampling interval of measurements, wet/dry period classification, dry weather baseline attenuation, quantization of the received power, drop size distribution (DSD), and multi-path propagation; and (2) those associated with mapping, i.e. the combined effect of the interpolation methodology and the spatial density of link measurements.

We computed ~ 3500 rainfall maps from real and simulated link rainfall depths for 12 days for the land surface of the Netherlands. Simulated link rainfall depths refer to path-averaged rainfall depths obtained from radar data. The ~ 3500 real and simulated rainfall maps were compared against quality-controlled gauge-adjusted radar rainfall fields (assumed to be the ground truth). Thus, we were able to not only identify and quantify the sources of uncertainty in such rainfall maps, but also test the actual and optimal performance of one commercial microwave network from one of the cellular providers in the Netherlands. Errors in microwave link measurements were found to be the source that contributes most to the overall uncertainty.

Short summary
Commercial cellular networks are built for telecommunication purposes. These kinds of networks have lately been used to obtain rainfall maps at country-wide scales. From previous studies, we now quantify the uncertainties associated with such maps. To do so, we divided the sources or error into two categories: from microwave link measurements and from mapping. It was found that the former is the source that contributes the most to the overall error in rainfall maps from microwave link network.