Relationship between rainfall variability and the predictability of radar rainfall nowcasting models

Zhenzhen Liu, Qiang Dai*, Lu Zhuo

*Corresponding author for this work

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

1 Citation (Scopus)
133 Downloads (Pure)


Radar rainfall nowcasts are subject to many sources of uncertainty and these uncertainties change with the characteristics of a storm. The predictive skill of a radar rainfall nowcasting model can be difficult to understand as sometimes it appears to be perfect but at other times it is highly inaccurate. This hinders the decision making required for the early warning of natural hazards caused by rainfall. In this study we define radar spatial and temporal rainfall variability and relate them to the predictive skill of a nowcasting model. The short-term ensemble prediction system model is configured to predict 731 events with lead times of one, two, and three hours. The nowcasting skill is expressed in terms of six well-known indicators. The results show that the quality of radar rainfall nowcasts increases with the rainfall autocorrelation and decreases with the rainfall variability coefficient. The uncertainty of radar rainfall nowcasts also shows a positive connection with rainfall variability. In addition, the spatial variability is more important than the temporal variability. Based on these results, we recommend that the lead time for radar rainfall nowcasting models should change depending on the storm and that it should be determined according to the rainfall variability. Such measures could improve trust in the rainfall nowcast products that are used for hydrological and meteorological applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number458
Number of pages21
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2019

Structured keywords

  • Water and Environmental Engineering


  • Nowcasting
  • Radar rainfall
  • Rainfall complexity
  • Rainfall uncertainty


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