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Rainfall Erosivity: An Overview of Methodologies and Applications

Shuiqing Yin, Mark A. Nearing, Pasquale Borrelli, Xiaochan Xue
Vadose zone journal 2017 v.16 no.12 pp. 1-16
Universal Soil Loss Equation, estimation, interrill erosion, kinetic energy, meteorological data, methodology, rain, rain intensity, snowmelt, thawing, topographic slope, vadose zone
CORE IDEAS: The R factor was developed in the various versions of the USLE. Research on rainfall erosivity estimation methods, mapping, and temporal trends is summarized. The RUSLE underestimates R factor values by about 10%. Three approaches for developing erosivity maps are identified. The rainfall erosivity factor (R factor) is one of six erosion factors in the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), which together reflect the combined effects that cause soil loss by rill and interrill erosion on hillslopes by precipitation. It is defined as the summation of event EI₃₀ (the product of kinetic energy and maximum 30‐min intensity) over a year and calculated based on rainfall hyetograph data. The R factor was developed in the various versions of the USLE, including the definition of the individual event and the criterion for selecting events used in the calculation, the equation used to estimate the unit kinetic energy from the rainfall intensity, the estimation of erosivity from the snowmelt and thaw, and erosivity mapping. Most research on rainfall erosivity deals with any of three aspects: developing estimation methods for deriving erosivity from courser resolution rainfall data (such as daily, monthly, and annual) but with greater spatial and temporal coverages than those from hyetograph data; preparing erosivity maps including those for annual average, monthly, and 10‐yr recurrence erosivity; and documenting temporal trends in erosivity. Rainfall erosivity research on these three aspects is summarized to provide a greater understanding of the R factor.