Evaluation of high-resolution precipitation products over the Rwenzori Mountains (Uganda)


The Rwenzori Mountains, in southwest Uganda, are prone to precipitation-related hazards such as flash floods and landslides. These natural hazards highly impact the lives and livelihoods of the people living in the region. However, our understanding of the precipitation patterns and their impact on related hazardous events and/or agricultural productivity is hampered by a dearth in in-situ precipitation observations. Here, we propose an evaluation of gridded precipitation products as potential candidates filling this hiatus. We evaluate three state-of-the-art gridded products, the ERA5 reanalysis, IMERG satellite observations and a simulation from the convection-permitting climate model (CPM) COSMO-CLM, for their ability to represent precipitation totals, timing, and precipitation probability density function. The evaluation is performed against observations from 11 gauge stations that provide at least 2.5 years of hourly and half-hourly data, recorded between 2011 and 2016. Results indicate a poor performance of ERA5 with a persistent wet bias, mostly for stations in the rain-shadow of the mountain. IMERG gives the best representation of the precipitation totals as indicated by bias score comparisons. The CPM outperforms both ERA5 and IMERG in representing the probability density function, while both IMERG and the CPM have a good skill in capturing precipitation seasonal and diurnal cycles. The better performance of CPM is attributable to its higher resolution.This study highlights the potential of using IMERG and CPM precipitation estimates for hydrological and impact modeling over the Rwenzori mountains, preferring IMERG for precipitation totals and CPM for precipitation extremes.

Journal of Hydrometeorology