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Volume 10, issue 3 | Copyright

Special issue: The World Meteorological Organization Solid Precipitation...

Atmos. Meas. Tech., 10, 1079-1091, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 16 Mar 2017

Research article | 16 Mar 2017

Assessment of snowfall accumulation underestimation by tipping bucket gauges in the Spanish operational network

Samuel T. Buisán1, Michael E. Earle2, José Luís Collado1, John Kochendorfer3, Javier Alastrué1, Mareile Wolff4, Craig D. Smith5, and Juan I. López-Moreno6 Samuel T. Buisán et al.
  • 1Delegación Territorial de AEMET (Spanish State Meteorological Agency) en Aragón, Paseo del Canal 17, Zaragoza, 50007, Spain
  • 2Environment and Climate Change Canada, Meteorological Service of Canada, Observing Systems and Engineering, Dartmouth, NS, Canada
  • 3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Air Resources Laboratory, Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, Oak Ridge, TN, USA
  • 4Norwegian Meteorological institute, Oslo, Norway
  • 5Environment and Climate Change Canada, Climate Research Division, 11 Innovation Blvd, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
  • 6Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC (Spanish Research Council), Campus de Aula Dei, P.O. Box 202, Zaragoza 50080, Spain

Abstract. Within the framework of the World Meteorological Organization Solid Precipitation Intercomparison Experiment (WMO-SPICE), the Thies tipping bucket precipitation gauge was assessed against the SPICE reference configuration at the Formigal–Sarrios test site located in the Pyrenees mountain range of Spain. The Thies gauge is the most widely used precipitation gauge by the Spanish Meteorological State Agency (AEMET) for the measurement of all precipitation types including snow. It is therefore critical that its performance is characterized. The first objective of this study is to derive transfer functions based on the relationships between catch ratio and wind speed and temperature. Multiple linear regression was applied to 1 and 3h accumulation periods, confirming that wind is the most dominant environmental variable affecting the gauge catch efficiency, especially during snowfall events. At wind speeds of 1.5ms−1 the tipping bucket recorded only 70% of the reference precipitation. At 3ms−1, the amount of measured precipitation decreased to 50% of the reference, was even lower for temperatures colder than −2°C and decreased to 20% or less for higher wind speeds.

The implications of precipitation underestimation for areas in northern Spain are discussed within the context of the present analysis, by applying the transfer function developed at the Formigal–Sarrios and using results from previous studies.

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Short summary
Within the framework of the WMO-SPICE (Solid Precipitation Intercomparison Experiment) the Thies tipping bucket precipitation gauge, widely used at AEMET, was assessed against the SPICE reference. Most countries use tipping buckets and for this reason the underestimation of snowfall precipitation is a large-scale problem. The methodology presented here can be used by other national weather services to test precipitation bias corrections and to identify regions where errors are higher.
Within the framework of the WMO-SPICE (Solid Precipitation Intercomparison Experiment) the Thies...