Macroscale water fluxes 1. Quantifying errors in the estimation of basin mean precipitation
Article first published online: 23 OCT 2002
Copyright 2002 by the American Geophysical Union.
Water Resources Research
Volume 38, Issue 10, pages 23-1–23-14, October 2002
How to Cite
Macroscale water fluxes, 1, Quantifying errors in the estimation of basin mean precipitation, Water Resour. Res., 38(10), 1205, doi:10.1029/2001WR000759, 2002., and ,
- Issue published online: 23 OCT 2002
- Article first published online: 23 OCT 2002
- Manuscript Revised: 15 APR 2002
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 APR 2002
- Manuscript Received: 9 JUL 2001
 Developments in analysis and modeling of continental water and energy balances are hindered by the limited availability and quality of observational data. The lack of information on error characteristics of basin water supply is an especially serious limitation. Here we describe the development and testing of methods for quantifying several errors in basin mean precipitation, both in the long-term mean and in the monthly and annual anomalies. To quantify errors in the long-term mean, two error indices are developed and tested with positive results. The first provides an estimate of the variance of the spatial sampling error of long-term basin mean precipitation obtained from a gauge network, in the absence of orographic effects; this estimate is obtained by use only of the gauge records. The second gives a simple estimate of the basin mean orographic bias as a function of the topographic structure of the basin and the locations of gauges therein. Neither index requires restrictive statistical assumptions (such as spatial homogeneity) about the precipitation process. Adjustments of precipitation for gauge bias and estimates of the adjustment errors are made by applying results of a previous study. Additionally, standard correlation-based methods are applied for the quantification of spatial sampling errors in the estimation of monthly and annual values of basin mean precipitation. These methods also perform well, as indicated by network subsampling tests in densely gauged basins. The methods are developed and applied with data for 175 large (median area of 51,000 km2) river basins of the world for which contemporaneous, continuous (missing fewer than 2% of data values), long-term (median record length of 54 years) river discharge records are also available. Spatial coverage of the resulting river basin data set is greatest in the middle latitudes, though many basins are located in the tropics and the high latitudes, and the data set spans the major climatic and vegetation zones of the world. This new data set can be applied in diagnostic and theoretical studies of water balance of large basins and in the evaluation of performance of global models of land water balance.