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Rainfall point intensities in an air mass thunderstorm environment: Walnut Gulch, Arizona

Mendez, A., Goodrich, D.C., Osborn, H.B.
Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2003 v.39 no.3 pp. 611
rain intensity, rainfall duration, storms, runoff, time series analysis, temporal variation, floods, simulation models, Arizona
Point rainfall intensities for a given return period are often used to formulate design storms for rainfall/runoff models to simulate design floods. These design floods are in turn used to design bridges, culverts, and a variety of drainage and flood control structures. The projected rapid growth in the southwestern United States will require very substantial monetary investments in drainage infrastructure. Accurate estimates of point rainfall intensities are critical to ensure both safe designs while not wasting dollars in overdesign. Rainfall point intensities (accumulated rainfall depth over a specified duration) for 5-, 15-, 30-, and 60-minute durations for the 2-, 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, and 100-year return periods were determined for southeast Arizona. Thirty-five years of rainfall record (1961 to 1995) were used in this study. The records came from 20 stations that were grouped into five sets of four independent stations to extend the rainfall records. The stations are in the USDA-ARS Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW), which is representative of large portions of the Southwest whose runoff generation is dominated by air-mass thunderstorms. The 5-, 15-, 30-, and 60-minute maximum intensities per year followed log-normal distributions. The mean point rainfall intensities of the five sets of gages are very close (between 0 and 11 percent) to the NOAA values of the 5-, 15-, 30-, and 60-minute durations for all return periods. Much larger differences between the mean point rainfall intensities for all durations were found when these results were compared to those of a previous study done with a shorter rainfall record (between 14 and 33 percent for the 25-, 50-, and 100-year return-periods). The difference between the largest and the smallest values of point rainfall intensities recorded by each group, for all durations, usually increases as the return period increases.