Articles | Volume 20, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 125–141, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-125-2016
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 125–141, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-20-125-2016

Research article 18 Jan 2016

Research article | 18 Jan 2016

Spatio-temporal assessment of WRF, TRMM and in situ precipitation data in a tropical mountain environment (Cordillera Blanca, Peru)

L. Mourre1, T. Condom1, C. Junquas1,2, T. Lebel1, J. E. Sicart1, R. Figueroa3, and A. Cochachin4 L. Mourre et al.
  • 1IRD/UGA/CNRS/G-INP, LTHE UMR 5564, Grenoble, France
  • 2Instituto Geofísico del Perú (IGP), Lima, Peru
  • 3UNASAM, Huaraz, Peru
  • 4Glaciology and Water Resources Unit, National Water Authority (ANA-UGRH), Huaraz, Peru

Abstract. The estimation of precipitation over the broad range of scales of interest for climatologists, meteorologists and hydrologists is challenging at high altitudes of tropical regions, where the spatial variability of precipitation is important while in situ measurements remain scarce largely due to operational constraints. Three different types of rainfall products – ground based (kriging interpolation), satellite derived (TRMM3B42), and atmospheric model outputs (WRF – Weather Research and Forecasting) – are compared for 1 hydrological year in order to retrieve rainfall patterns at timescales ranging from sub-daily to annual over a watershed of approximately 10 000 km2 in Peru. An ensemble of three different spatial resolutions is considered for the comparison (27, 9 and 3 km), as long as well as a range of timescales (annual totals, daily rainfall patterns, diurnal cycle). WRF simulations largely overestimate the annual totals, especially at low spatial resolution, while reproducing correctly the diurnal cycle and locating the spots of heavy rainfall more realistically than either the ground-based KED or the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) products. The main weakness of kriged products is the production of annual rainfall maxima over the summit rather than on the slopes, mainly due to a lack of in situ data above 3800 m a. s. l.  This study also confirms that one limitation of TRMM is its poor performance over ice-covered areas because ice on the ground behaves in a similar way as rain or ice drops in the atmosphere in terms of scattering the microwave energy. While all three products are able to correctly represent the spatial rainfall patterns at the annual scale, it not surprisingly turns out that none of them meets the challenge of representing both accumulated quantities of precipitation and frequency of occurrence at the short timescales (sub-daily and daily) required for glacio-hydrological studies in this region. It is concluded that new methods should be used to merge various rainfall products so as to make the most of their respective strengths.

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Short summary
Three different types of gridded precipitation products are compared in a high glaciated tropical mountain environment (Cordillera Blanca, Peru): ground-based interpolation, a satellite-derived product (TRMM3B42), and outputs from the WRF regional climate model. While none of the products meets the challenge of representing both accumulated quantities and frequency of occurrence at the short timescale, we concluded that new methods should be used to merge those various precipitation products.