Error propagation of radar rainfall nowcasting fields through a fully-distributed flood forecasting model

Author: Ross N. Hoffman and E.R. Vivoni
June 4, 2007
Journal Article
Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology

Vivoni, Enrique R., Dara Entekhabi, Ross N. Hoffman, 2007: Error Propagation of Radar Rainfall Nowcasting Fields through a Fully Distributed Flood Forecasting Model. J. Appl. Meteor. Climatol., 46, 932–940.
doi: 10.1175/JAM2506.1

This study presents a first attempt to address the propagation of radar rainfall nowcasting errors to flood forecasts in the context of distributed hydrological simulations over a range of catchment sizes or scales. Rainfall forecasts with high spatiotemporal resolution generated from observed radar fields are used as forcing to a fully distributed hydrologic model to issue flood forecasts in a set of nested subbasins. Radar nowcasting introduces errors into the rainfall field evolution that result from spatial and temporal changes of storm features that are not captured in the forecast algorithm. The accuracy of radar rainfall and flood forecasts relative to observed radar precipitation fields and calibrated flood simulations is assessed. The study quantifies how increases in nowcasting errors with lead time result in higher flood forecast errors at the basin outlet. For small, interior basins, rainfall forecast errors can be simultaneously amplified or dampened in different flood forecast locations depending on the forecast lead time and storm characteristics. Interior differences in error propagation are shown to be effectively averaged out for larger catchment scales.