Articles | Volume 21, issue 4
Research article
12 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 12 Apr 2017

The quantification and correction of wind-induced precipitation measurement errors

John Kochendorfer, Roy Rasmussen, Mareile Wolff, Bruce Baker, Mark E. Hall, Tilden Meyers, Scott Landolt, Al Jachcik, Ketil Isaksen, Ragnar Brækkan, and Ronald Leeper

Abstract. Hydrologic measurements are important for both the short- and long-term management of water resources. Of the terms in the hydrologic budget, precipitation is typically the most important input; however, measurements of precipitation are subject to large errors and biases. For example, an all-weather unshielded weighing precipitation gauge can collect less than 50 % of the actual amount of solid precipitation when wind speeds exceed 5 m s−1. Using results from two different precipitation test beds, such errors have been assessed for unshielded weighing gauges and for weighing gauges employing four of the most common windshields currently in use. Functions to correct wind-induced undercatch were developed and tested. In addition, corrections for the single-Alter weighing gauge were developed using the combined results of two separate sites in Norway and the USA. In general, the results indicate that the functions effectively correct the undercatch bias that affects such precipitation measurements. In addition, a single function developed for the single-Alter gauges effectively decreased the bias at both sites, with the bias at the US site improving from −12 to 0 %, and the bias at the Norwegian site improving from −27 to −4 %. These correction functions require only wind speed and air temperature as inputs, and were developed for use in national and local precipitation networks, hydrological monitoring, roadway and airport safety work, and climate change research. The techniques used to develop and test these transfer functions at more than one site can also be used for other more comprehensive studies, such as the World Meteorological Organization Solid Precipitation Intercomparison Experiment (WMO-SPICE).

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Short summary
Snowfall measurements recorded using precipitation gauges are subject to significant underestimation due to the effects of wind. Using measurements recorded at two different precipitation test beds, corrections for unshielded gauges and gauges within different types of windshields were developed and tested. Using the new corrections, uncorrectable errors were quantified, and measurement biases were successfully eliminated.