Abstract

Precipitation phase determination is a known source of uncertainty in surface-based hydrological, ecological, safety, and climate models. This is primarily due to the surface precipitation phase being a result of cloud and atmospheric properties not measured at surface meteorological or hydrological stations. Adding to the uncertainty, many conceptual hydrological models use a 24-h average air temperature to determine the precipitation phase. However, meteorological changes to atmospheric properties that control the precipitation phase often substantially change at sub-daily timescales. Model uncertainty (precipitation phase error) using air temperature (AT), dew-point temperature (DP), and wet-bulb temperature (WB) thresholds were compared using averaged and time of observation readings at 1-, 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-h periods. Precipitation phase uncertainty grew 35–65% from the use of 1–24 h data. Within a sub-dataset of observations occurring between AT −6 and 6 °C representing 57% of annual precipitation, misclassified precipitation was 7.9% 1 h and 11.8% 24 h. Of note, there was also little difference between 1 and 3 h uncertainty, typical time steps for surface meteorological observations.

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