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High-Intensity Rainfall Rate Determination from Tipping-Bucket Rain Gauge Data

Sadler, E. J., Busscher, W. J.
Agronomy journal 1989 v.81 no.6 pp. 930
rain, rain gauges, duration, research methods
High rainfall rates have a major impact on agriculture through runoff, erosion, and surface crusting and on other industries through sedimentation, failure of dams, and attenuation of radio waves. Traditional techniques used to measure and record rainfall have produced event totals or hourly rates. These are unsuitable for studying short-term impacts in brief storms (e.g., 27 mm in 30 min). The objective of this work was to develop an analytical procedure to provide millimeter per minute resolution in rainfall rate from short-term, tipping-bucket, rain gauge data. Counts of tips in 1-min intervals were assembled into an array of accumulated rainfall over time during an event. A cubic spline was fitted to the accumulated rainfall curve and then differentiated to yield the rate curve. Four synthetic rainfall patterns were used to test the technique by matching original and reconstructed curves. Regression of reconstructed rates on input rates resulted in 9 ranging from 0.989 to 0.996. When applied to field data from 8 events (total: 209.5 mm) in July 1984 and 6 events (total: 139 mm) in July 1985, the technique described rainfall rate as a smooth, continuous function of time. This characteristic improves the suitability of the data for input to models of infiltration and runoff that adapt time steps to overcome numerical instability under rapidly changing conditions.