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Publication Date
1 November 2019

A Unified Approach to Evaluating Precipitation Frequency Estimates with Uncertainty Quantification: Application to Florida and California Watersheds



Although a variety of climate datasets are now available, including observational and model products, there remains a pressing need for the development of a unified, automated and application-focused approach for evaluating and comparing climate extremes within and across these datasets. Precipitation frequency (PF) estimates for extreme precipitation events are useful decision-relevant quantities among water managers. Our objective and quantitative framework for computing PF estimates of any duration uses known techniques in a novel combination. Our framework consists of three steps: (1) use of a regionalization-based statistical method for precipitation frequency estimation at observed sites; this involves hierarchical clustering (here we used Ward’s method) for delineating homogeneous regions, and regional frequency analysis using L-moments; (2) use of kriging for spatial mapping because of its advantages over other conventional interpolation methods; (3) use of z-scores accounts for estimation uncertainties when comparing PF estimates between datasets. The 24-h PF estimates in the Kissimmee-Southern Florida watershed (flat topography) and the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed (complex topography) demonstrate the applicability of this approach in regions of any geographical complexity. Our results are shown to be reasonably calibrated using the probability integral transform (PIT) histogram of the best fitted distribution. Our results are compared with that of the NOAA Atlas 14 reports and show that for most of the stations the two estimates are statistically indistinguishable; and, the confidence intervals of our estimates are narrower than those of the NOAA estimates. Our approach is applicable to a variety of datasets and provides a baseline for assessing performance of climate models in historical simulations – a necessary first step towards analyzing future projections.
“A Unified Approach To Evaluating Precipitation Frequency Estimates With Uncertainty Quantification: Application To Florida And California Watersheds”. 2019. Journal Of Hydrology 578: 124095. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.124095.
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