Estimation of rainfall erosivity based on WRF-derived raindrop size distributions

Qiang Dai, Jingxuan Zhu, Shuliang Zhang*, Shaonan Zhu, Dawei Han, Guonian Lv

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Soil erosion can cause various ecological problems, such as land degradation, soil fertility loss, and river siltation. Rainfall is the primary water-driving force for soil erosion, and its potential effect on soil erosion is reflected by rainfall erosivity that relates to the raindrop kinetic energy. As it is difficult to observe large-scale dynamic characteristics of raindrops, all the current rainfall erosivity models use the function based on rainfall amount to represent the raindrops kinetic energy. With the development of global atmospheric re-analysis data, numerical weather prediction techniques become a promising way to estimate rainfall kinetic energy directly at regional and global scales with high spatial and temporal resolutions. This study proposed a novel method for large-scale and long-term rainfall erosivity investigations based on the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, avoiding errors caused by inappropriate rainfall–energy relationships and large-scale interpolation. We adopted three microphysical parameterizations schemes (Morrison, WDM6, and Thompson aerosol-aware) to obtain raindrop size distributions, rainfall kinetic energy and rainfall erosivity, with validation by two disdrometers and 304 rain gauges around the United Kingdom. Among the three WRF schemes, Thompson aerosol-aware had the best performance compared with the disdrometers at a monthly scale. The results revealed that high rainfall erosivity occurred in the west coast area at the whole country scale during 2013–2017. The proposed methodology makes a significant contribution to improving large-scale soil erosion estimation and for better understanding microphysical rainfall–soil interactions to support the rational formulation of soil and water conservation planning
Original languageEnglish
Article number5407–5422
Number of pages16
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020


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