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Discussion papers | Copyright
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 Sep 2018

Research article | 13 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Consistency of satellite precipitation estimates in space and over time compared with gauge observations and snow-hydrological modelling in the Lake Titicaca region

Frédéric Satgé1, Denis Ruelland2, Marie-Paule Bonnet3, Jorge Molina4, and Ramiro Pillco4 Frédéric Satgé et al.
  • 1CNES, UMR Hydrosciences, University of Montpellier, Place E. Bataillon, 34395 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
  • 2CNRS, UMR Hydrosciences, University of Montpellier, Place E. Bataillon, 34395 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
  • 3IRD, UMR Espace-Dev, Maison de la télédétection, 500 rue JF Breton, 34093 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
  • 4Universidad Mayor de San Andres, calle 30 Cota Cota, La Paz, Bolivia

Abstract. This paper proposes a protocol to assess the space-time consistency of satellite precipitation estimates (SPEs) according to various indicators including: (i) direct comparison of SPEs with 72 precipitation gauges; (ii) sensitivity of streamflow modelling to SPEs at the outlet of four basins; and (iii) the sensitivity of distributed snow models to SPEs using a MODIS snow product as reference in an unmonitored mountainous area. The protocol was applied successively to four different time windows (2000–2004, 2004–2008, 2008–2012 and 2000–2012) to account for the space-time variability of the SPEs and to a large dataset composed of 12 SPEs (CMORPH-RAW, CMORPH-CRT, CMORPH-BLD, CHIRP, CHIRPS, GSMaP, MSWEP, PERSIANN, PERSIANN-CDR, TMPA-RT, TMPA-Adj and SM2Rain), an unprecedented comparison. The aim of using different space-time scales and indicators was to evaluate whether the efficiency of SPEs varies with the method of assessment, time window and location. Results revealed very high discrepancies between SPEs compared to precipitation gauge observations. Some SPEs (CMORPH‒RAW, CMORPH‒CRT, GSMaP, PERSIANN, TMPA‒RT and SM2Rain) are unable to estimate regional precipitation whereas the others (CHIRP, CHIRPS, CMORPH‒BLD, MSWEP, PERSIANN‒CDR and TMPA‒Adj) produce a realistic representation despite recurrent spatial limitation over regions with contrasted emissivity, temperature and orography. In nine out of ten of the cases studied, streamflow was more realistically simulated by the hydrological model tested when SPEs were used as forcing precipitation data rather than precipitation derived from the available precipitation gauge networks. Interestingly, the potential of SPEs to reproduce the observed streamflow varied significantly depending on the basin and period considered and did not systematically corroborate SPE potential compared with gauge precipitation observations. SPE’s ability to reproduce the duration of MODIS-based snow cover also showed variable consistency over time with poorer simulations in comparison to those simulated from available precipitation gauges. Using snow cover simulations as indicator led to a different efficiency ranking of the SPEs that the ones obtained when using observed gauge precipitation and streamflow. SPEs thus present space-time errors that may not be detected when short time windows and/or scarce gauge networks and/or single indicators are used, underlining how important it is to carefully consider their space-time consistency before using them for hydro-climatic studies. Moreover SPE efficiency ranked differently depending on the assessment indicators used, suggesting that SPE efficiency should be assessed using indicators related to their final use. Among all the SPEs assessed, MSWEP showed the highest space-time accuracy and consistency in reproducing gauge precipitation estimates, streamflow and snow cover duration. After some adjustment over Lake Titicaca, MSWEP should thus be preferred for the regional hydro-meteorological survey.

Frédéric Satgé et al.
Interactive discussion
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Frédéric Satgé et al.
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Short summary
This paper assesses the potential of satellite precipitation estimates (SPEs) for precipitation measurement, hydrological and snow modeling. A total of 12 SPEs is considered to provide a global overview of available SPE accuracy for users interested in such datasets. Results show that, over poorly monitored regions, SPEs represent a very efficient alternative to traditional precipitation gauges to follow precipitation in time and space and for hydrological and snow modeling.
This paper assesses the potential of satellite precipitation estimates (SPEs) for precipitation...