Resolving orographic rainfall on the Indian west coast



We discuss a method to obtain the spatial estimates of rainfall on the Indian west coast for calculating the surface water budget. The region includes the basin of the Mandovi River, a typical west-coast river whose catchment area includes the Sahyadris range. The rainfall maps obtained by a multivariate interpolation scheme, with elevation as the third variable, were able to capture the sharp increase in rainfall on the windward slopes and the exponential decay in rainfall on the leeward side. The rainfall maps were used to force a hydrological model and the simulated discharge was within 16% of the observed discharge in 16 of 18 years during 1981–1998; the average error over the 18 years was 8%, which is much less than the estimated error of ∼15–20% in the observed discharge. The Mandovi river discharge provided a reliable and independent validation of the accuracy of the rainfall estimate as the river is purely rain-fed. The method provides a better estimate of rainfall in the Mandovi basin, and therefore for the Indian west coast, than existing rainfall datasets. The key result is that treating the windward and leeward sides separately by an a priori, subjective extraction of the ridge line can reduce the underestimation of rainfall that is common in mountainous terrain when the data coverage is sparse. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society