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Improved estimation of catchment rainfall for continuous simulation modelling.

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Long sequences of rainfall at fme spatial and temporal details are increasingly required, not only for hydrological studies, but also to provide inputs for models of crop growth, land fills, tailing dams, disposal of liquid waste on land and other environmentally-sensitive projects. However, rainfall records from raingauges frequently fail to meet the requirements of the above studies. Therefore, it is important to improve the estimation of the depth and spatial distribution of rainfall falling over a catchment. A number of techniques have been developed to improve the estimation of the spatial distribution of rainfall from sparsely distributed raingauges. These techniques range from simple interpolation techniques developed to estimate areal rainfall from point rainfall measurements, to statistical and deterministic models, which generate rainfall values and downscale the rainfall values based on the physical properties of the clouds or rain cells. Furthermore, these techniques include different statistical methods, which combine the rainfall information gathered from radar, raingauges and satellites. Although merging the radar and raingauge rainfall fields gives a best estimate of the "true rainfall field", the length of the radar record and spatial coverage of the radar in a country such as South Africa is relatively short and hence is of limited use in hydrological studies. Therefore, the relationship between the average merged rainfall value for a catchment and a "driver" station, which is selected to represent rainfall in the catchment, is developed and assessed in this study. Rainfall data from the Liebenbergsvlei Catchment near Bethlehem in the Free State Province and a six-month record of radar data are used to develop relationships between the average merged subcatchment rainfall for each of the Liebenbergsvlei subcatchments and a representative raingauge selected to represent the rainfall in each of the subcatchments. The relationships between daily raingauges and the average rainfall depth of the subcatchments are generally good and in most of the subcatchments the correlation coefficient is greater than 0.5. It was also noted that, in most of the subcatchments, the daily raingauges overestimate the average areal rainfall depth of the subcatchments. In addition, the String of Beads Model (SBM) developed by Clothier and Pegram (2002) was used to generate synthetic rainfall series for the Liebenbergsvlei catchments. The SBM is able to produce rainfall values at a spatial resolution of IxI km with a 5 minute temporal resolution. The SBM is a high-resolution space-time model of radar rainfall images, which takes advantage of the detailed spatial and temporal information captured by weather radar and combines it with the long-term seasonal variation captured by a network of daily raingauges. Statistics from a 50 year period of generated rainfall values were compared with the statistics computed from a 50 year raingauge data series, and it was found that the generated rainfall values mimic the rainfall data from the raingauges reasonably well. The relationship developed between the merged catchment rainfall values and driver rainfall station values, which are selected to represent the mean areal rainfall of the subcatchment, was used to adjust the Conventional Driver rainfall Station (CDS) into Modified Driver Station (MDS) values. Streamflow was simulated using both the CDS and MDS rainfall compared against the observed streamflow from the Liebenbergsvlei catchment. In general, the streamflow simulated by the ACRU model do not correlate well with the observed streamflow, which is attributed to unrealistic observed flow and inter-catchments transfers of water. However, it is noted that the volume of streamflow simulated with the MDS rainfall is only 71 % of that simulated with the CDS rainfall, thus highlighting the limitation of using the CDS rainfall approach for modelling and the need to apply the methodology to improve the estimation of catchment rainfall developed in this study to other catchments in South Africa.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2005.


Theses--Bioresources engineering and environmental hydrology., Rain and rainfall--Forecasting., Rain and rainfall--Measurement., Rain and rainfall--Mathematical models.