Articles | Volume 20, issue 5
Research article
04 May 2016
Research article |  | 04 May 2016

Assessment of small-scale variability of rainfall and multi-satellite precipitation estimates using measurements from a dense rain gauge network in Southeast India

K. Sunilkumar, T. Narayana Rao, and S. Satheeshkumar

Abstract. This paper describes the establishment of a dense rain gauge network and small-scale variability in rain events (both in space and time) over a complex hilly terrain in Southeast India. Three years of high-resolution gauge measurements are used to validate 3-hourly rainfall and sub-daily variations of four widely used multi-satellite precipitation estimates (MPEs). The network, established as part of the Megha-Tropiques validation program, consists of 36 rain gauges arranged in a near-square grid area of 50 km  ×  50 km with an intergauge distance of 6–12 km. Morphological features of rainfall in two principal rainy seasons (southwest monsoon, SWM, and northeast monsoon, NEM) show marked differences. The NEM rainfall exhibits significant spatial variability and most of the rainfall is associated with large-scale/long-lived systems (during wet spells), whereas the contribution from small-scale/short-lived systems is considerable during the SWM. Rain events with longer duration and copious rainfall are seen mostly in the western quadrants (a quadrant is 1/4 of the study region) in the SWM and northern quadrants in the NEM, indicating complex spatial variability within the study region. The diurnal cycle also exhibits large spatial and seasonal variability with larger diurnal amplitudes at all the gauge locations (except for 1) during the SWM and smaller and insignificant diurnal amplitudes at many gauge locations during the NEM. On average, the diurnal amplitudes are a factor of 2 larger in the SWM than in the NEM. The 24 h harmonic explains about 70 % of total variance in the SWM and only ∼ 30 % in the NEM. During the SWM, the rainfall peak is observed between 20:00 and 02:00 IST (Indian Standard Time) and is attributed to the propagating systems from the west coast during active monsoon spells. Correlograms with different temporal integrations of rainfall data (1, 3, 12, 24 h) show an increase in the spatial correlation with temporal integration, but the correlation remains nearly the same after 12 h of integration in both monsoon seasons. The 1 h resolution data show the steepest reduction in correlation with intergauge distance and the correlation becomes insignificant after ∼ 30 km in both monsoon seasons.

Validation of high-resolution rainfall estimates from various MPEs against the gauge rainfall data indicates that all MPEs underestimate the light and heavy rain. The MPEs exhibit good detection skills of rain at both 3 and 24 h resolutions; however, considerable improvement is observed at 24 h resolution. Among the different MPEs investigated, the Climate Prediction Centre morphing technique (CMORPH) performs better at 3-hourly resolution in both monsoons. The performance of Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) multi-satellite precipitation analysis (TMPA) is much better at daily resolution than at 3-hourly, as evidenced by better statistical metrics than the other MPEs. All MPEs captured the basic shape of the diurnal cycle and the amplitude quite well, but failed to reproduce the weak/insignificant diurnal cycle in the NEM.