Representing uncertainty in continental-scale gridded precipitation fields for agrometeorological modeling

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This work proposes a relatively simple methodology for creating ensembles of precipitation inputs that are consistent with the spatial and temporal scale necessary for regional crop modeling. A high-quality reference precipitation dataset [the European Land Data Assimilation System (ELDAS)] was used as a basis to define the uncertainty in an operational precipitation database [the Crop Growth Monitoring System (CGMS)]. The distributions of precipitation residuals (CGMS ¿ ELDAS) were determined for classes of CGMS precipitation and transformed to a Gaussian distribution using normal score transformations. In cases of zero CGMS precipitation, the occurrence of rainfall was controlled by an indicator variable. The resulting normal-score-transformed precipitation residuals appeared to be approximately multivariate Gaussian and exhibited strong spatial correlation; however, temporal correlation was very weak. An ensemble of 100 precipitation realizations was created based on back-transformed spatially correlated Gaussian residuals and indicator realizations. Quantile¿quantile plots of 100 realizations against the ELDAS reference data for selected sites revealed similar distributions (except for the 100th percentile, owing to some large residuals in the realizations). The semivariograms of realizations for sampled days showed considerable variability in the overall variance; the range of the spatial correlation was similar to that of the ELDAS reference dataset. The intermittency characteristics of wet and dry periods were reproduced well for most of the selected sites, but the method failed to reproduce the dry period statistics in semiarid areas (e.g., southern Spain). Finally, a case study demonstrates how rainfall ensembles can be used in operational crop modeling and crop yield forecasting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1172-1190
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • ensemble kalman filter
  • forecasting system
  • crop simulation
  • land-surface
  • climate
  • weather
  • yields
  • wheat
  • soil
  • disaggregation

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