Geostatistical upscaling of rain gauge data to support uncertainty analysis of lumped urban hydrological models

Manoranjan Muthusamy*, Alma Schellart, Simon Tait, Gerard B.M. Heuvelink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we develop a method to estimate the spatially averaged rainfall intensity together with associated level of uncertainty using geostatistical upscaling. Rainfall data collected from a cluster of eight paired rain gauges in a 400 × 200m urban catchment are used in combination with spatial stochastic simulation to obtain optimal predictions of the spatially averaged rainfall intensity at any point in time within the urban catchment. The uncertainty in the prediction of catchment average rainfall intensity is obtained for multiple combinations of intensity ranges and temporal averaging intervals. The two main challenges addressed in this study are scarcity of rainfall measurement locations and non-normality of rainfall data, both of which need to be considered when adopting a geostatistical approach. Scarcity of measurement points is dealt with by pooling sample variograms of repeated rainfall measurements with similar characteristics. Normality of rainfall data is achieved through the use of normal score transformation. Geostatistical models in the form of variograms are derived for transformed rainfall intensity. Next spatial stochastic simulation which is robust to nonlinear data transformation is applied to produce realisations of rainfall fields. These realisations in transformed space are first back-transformed and next spatially aggregated to derive a random sample of the spatially averaged rainfall intensity. Results show that the prediction uncertainty comes mainly from two sources: spatial variability of rainfall and measurement error. At smaller temporal averaging intervals both these effects are high, resulting in a relatively high uncertainty in prediction. With longer temporal averaging intervals the uncertainty becomes lower due to stronger spatial correlation of rainfall data and relatively smaller measurement error. Results also show that the measurement error increases with decreasing rainfall intensity resulting in a higher uncertainty at lower intensities. Results from this study can be used for uncertainty analyses of hydrologic and hydrodynamic modelling of similar-sized urban catchments as it provides information on uncertainty associated with rainfall estimation, which is arguably the most important input in these models. This will help to better interpret model results and avoid false calibration and force-fitting of model parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1091
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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