Evaluating seasonal orographic precipitation in the interior western United States using gauge data, gridded precipitation estimates, and a regional climate simulation

Xiaoqin Jing, Bart Geerts, Yonggang Wang, Changhai Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations


There are several high-resolution (1-12 km) gridded precipitation datasets covering the interior western United States. This study cross validates seasonal orographic precipitation estimates from the Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) network; the national hourly multisensor precipitation analysis Stage IV dataset (NCEP IV); four gauge-driven gridded datasets; and a 10-yr, 4-km, convection-permitting Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model simulation. The NCEP IV dataset, which uses the NEXRAD network and precipitation gauges, is challenged in this region because of blockage and lack of low-level radar coverage in complex terrain. The gauge-driven gridded datasets, which statistically interpolate gauge measurements over complex terrain to better estimate orographic precipitation, are challenged by the highly heterogeneous, weather-dependent nature of precipitation in complex terrain at scales finer than can be resolved by the gauge network, such as the SNOTEL network. Gauge-driven gridded precipitation estimates disagree in areas where SNOTEL gauges are sparse, especially at higher elevations. The WRF simulation captures wintertime orographic precipitation distribution and amount well, and biases over specific mountain ranges are identical to those in an independentWRF simulation, suggesting that these biases are at least partly due to errors in the snowfall measurements or the gridding of these measurements. The substantial disagreement between WRF and the gridded datasets over some mountains may motivate reevaluation of some gauge records and installation of new SNOTEL gauges in regions marked by large discrepancies between modeled and gaugedriven precipitation estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2541-2558
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017



  • Mountain meteorology
  • Precipitation
  • Regional models

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