A Comparison of Automatic Rain Gauges

Jeffrey A. Nystuen and John R. Proni

NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
Ocean Acoustics Division
Miami, Florida

Peter G. Black

NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
Hurrican Research Division
Miami, Florida

John C. Wilkerson

NOAA/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
Satellite Research Laboratory
Camp Springs, Maryland

Abstract: Automatic rain gauge systems are required to collect rainfall data at remote locations, especially oceanic sites where logistics prevent regualar visits. Rainfall data from six different types of automatic rain gauge systems have been collected for a set of summertime subtropical rain events and for a set of wintertime rain events at Miami, Florida. The rain gauge systems include three types of collection gauges: weighing, capacitance, and tipping bucket; two gauges that inherently measure rainfall rate: optical scintillation and underwater acoustical inversion; and one gauge that detects individual raindrops: the disdrometer. All of these measurement techniques perform well; that is, they produce rainfall estimates that are highly correlated to one another. However, each method has limitations. The collection gauges are affected by flow irregularities between the catchment basin and the measurement chambers. This affects the accuracy of rainfall-rate measurements from these instruments, especially at low rainfall rates. In the case of the capacitance gauge, errors in 1-min rainfall rates can exceed +10mm/h. The rainfall rate gauges showed more scatter than the collection gauges for rainfall rates over 5mm/h, and the scatter was relatively independent of rainfall rate. Changes in drop size distribution within an event could not be used to explain the scatter observed in the optical rain gauge data. The acoustical inversion method can be used to measure the drop size distribution, allowing rainfall classification and estimation of other rainfall parameters - for example, reflectivity or liquid water content - in addition to rainfall rate. The acoustical inversion method has the advantage of an extremely large catchment area, resulting in very high time resolution. The disdrometer showed a large scatter relative to the other rain gauge systems for low rainfall rates. This is consistent with the small catchment area for the disdrometer system.

Return to list of journal publications

Return to Dr. Nystuen's Web Page

itoring of underwater sound an effective measure of rainfall