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Assessment of satellite derived rainfall and its use in the ACRU hydrological model.

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Many parts of southern Africa are considered water scarce regions. Therefore, sound management and decision making is important to achieve maximum usage with sustainability of the precious resource. Hydrological models are often used to inform management decisions; however model performance is directly linked to the quality of data that is input. Rainfall is a key aspect of hydrological systems. Understanding the spatial and temporal variations of rainfall is of paramount importance to make key management decisions within a management area. Rainfall is traditionally measured through the use of in-situ rain gauge measurements. However, rain gauge measurements poorly represent the spatial variations of rainfall and rain gauge networks are diminishing, especially in southern Africa. Due to the sparse distribution of rain gauges and the spatial problems associated with rain gauge measurements, the use of satellite derived rainfall is being increasingly advocated. The overall aim of this research study was to investigate the use of satellite derived rainfall into the ACRU hydrological model to simulate streamflow. Key objectives of the study included (i) the validation of satellite derived rainfall with rain gauge measurements, (ii) generation of time series of satellite derived rainfall to drive the ACRU hydrological model, and (iii) validation of simulated streamflow with measured streamflow. The products were evaluated in the upper uMngeni, upper uThukela (summer rainfall) as well as the upper and central Breede catchments (winter rainfall). The satellite rainfall products chosen for investigation in this study included TRMM 3B42, FEWS ARC2, FEWS RFE2, TAMSAT-3 and GPM. The satellite rainfall products were validated using rain gauges in and around the study sites from 1 January 2010 to 30 April 2017. The rainfall products performed differently at each location with high variation in daily magnitudes of rainfall. Total rainfall volumes over the period of analysis were generally in better agreement with rain gauge volumes with TRMM 3B42 tending to overestimate rainfall volumes whereas the other products underestimated rainfall volumes. The ACRU model was applied using satellite rainfall and rain gauge measurements in the aforementioned study catchments from 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2016. Streamflow results were generally poor and variable amongst products. Daily correlations of streamflow were poor. Total streamflow volumes were in better agreement with total volumes of observed streamflow. TRMM 3B42 and rain gauge driven simulations produced the best results in the summer rainfall region, whereas the FEWS driven simulations produced the best results in the winter rainfall region.


Master of Science in Hydrology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2017.


Theses - Environmental hydrology., Rainfall frequencies -South Africa., Hydrologic models.