Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 107–129 | Cite as

Review of the Different Sources of Uncertainty in Single Polarization Radar-Based Estimates of Rainfall

  • Gabriele Villarini
  • Witold F. Krajewski


It is well acknowledged that there are large uncertainties associated with radar-based estimates of rainfall. Numerous sources of these errors are due to parameter estimation, the observational system and measurement principles, and not fully understood physical processes. Propagation of these uncertainties through all models for which radar-rainfall are used as input (e.g., hydrologic models) or as initial conditions (e.g., weather forecasting models) is necessary to enhance the understanding and interpretation of the obtained results. The aim of this paper is to provide an extensive literature review of the principal sources of error affecting single polarization radar-based rainfall estimates. These include radar miscalibration, attenuation, ground clutter and anomalous propagation, beam blockage, variability of the ZR relation, range degradation, vertical variability of the precipitation system, vertical air motion and precipitation drift, and temporal sampling errors. Finally, the authors report some recent results from empirically-based modeling of the total radar-rainfall uncertainties. The bibliography comprises over 200 peer reviewed journal articles.


Rainfall Radar remote sensing Uncertainty Estimation 



The authors acknowledge many helpful discussions with Dr. Grzegorz Ciach and Pradeep Mandapaka. The first author was supported by NASA Headquarters under the Earth Science Fellowship Grant NNX06AF23H while a graduate student at the University of Iowa. The first author would also like to thank Mrs. C. Dewey at the University of Iowa for her help. The authors wish to thank four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.IIHR-Hydroscience & EngineeringThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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