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Variability of Precipitation Areal Reduction Factors in the Conterminous United States...

by Shih-chieh Kao, Scott T Deneale, Elena Yegorova, Joseph Kanney, Meredith Carr
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Journal of Hydrology X
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Many hydrologic and hydraulic (H&H) engineering applications require spatial rainfall distribution over a watershed, but point precipitation frequency estimates, such as those provided by NOAA Atlas 14, are only applicable for relatively small areas. For larger areas, areal reduction factors (ARFs) are commonly used to transform a point precipitation frequency estimate of a given duration and frequency to a corresponding areal estimate. The most common source of ARFs for the United States is Technical Paper 29 (TP-29), published in 1958, although there have been significant increases in record length and types of available data and several new methods for computing ARFs have been proposed over the last several decades. This study applied up-to-date precipitation data products and analysis methods with a watershed-based approach to investigate factors that affect ARF variabilities, and to compare ARFs across multiple US hydrologic regions. Our overall findings are in line with other recent studies showing that ARFs decrease with increasing area, increase with increasing duration, and decrease with increasing return period. In particular, we found a strong geographical variability across different US hydrologic regions, suggesting that ARF are specific to regional climate patterns and geographical characteristics and should not be applied arbitrarily to other locations. The results also reveal the importance of record length, especially for high return level ARFs. The study demonstrates the need to improve ARFs with new data and methods to support more reliable areal precipitation frequency estimates for H&H applications.