Combined use of satellite estimates and rain gauge observations to generate high-quality historical rainfall time series over Ethiopia


  • [Correction added 2 December 2013 after original online publication: the affiliation details for K. Hailemariam, R. Maidment and E. Tarnavsky have been corrected.]


Climate data are used in a number of applications including climate risk management and adaptation to climate change. However, the availability of climate data, particularly throughout rural Africa, is very limited. Available weather stations are unevenly distributed and mainly located along main roads in cities and towns. This imposes severe limitations to the availability of climate information and services for the rural community where, arguably, these services are needed most. Weather station data also suffer from gaps in the time series. Satellite proxies, particularly satellite rainfall estimate, have been used as alternatives because of their availability even over remote parts of the world. However, satellite rainfall estimates also suffer from a number of critical shortcomings that include heterogeneous time series, short time period of observation, and poor accuracy particularly at higher temporal and spatial resolutions. An attempt is made here to alleviate these problems by combining station measurements with the complete spatial coverage of satellite rainfall estimates. Rain gauge observations are merged with a locally calibrated version of the TAMSAT satellite rainfall estimates to produce over 30-years (1983-todate) of rainfall estimates over Ethiopia at a spatial resolution of 10 km and a ten-daily time scale. This involves quality control of rain gauge data, generating locally calibrated version of the TAMSAT rainfall estimates, and combining these with rain gauge observations from national station network. The infrared-only satellite rainfall estimates produced using a relatively simple TAMSAT algorithm performed as good as or even better than other satellite rainfall products that use passive microwave inputs and more sophisticated algorithms. There is no substantial difference between the gridded-gauge and combined gauge-satellite products over the test area in Ethiopia having a dense station network; however, the combined product exhibits better quality over parts of the country where stations are sparsely distributed.