Edge effect causes apparent fractal correlation dimension of uniform spatial raindrop distribution

R. Uijlenhoet*, J. M. Porrà, D. Sempere Torres, J. D. Creutin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Lovejoy and Schertzer (1990a) presented a statistical analysis of blotting paper observations of the (twodimensional) spatial distribution of raindrop stains. They found empirical evidence for the fractal scaling behavior of raindrops in space, with potentially far-reaching implications for rainfall microphysics and radar meteorology. In particular, the fractal correlation dimensions determined from their blotting paper observations led them to conclude that "drops are (hierarchically) clustered" and that "inhomogeneity in rain is likely to extend down to millimeter scales". Confirming previously reported Monte Carlo simulations, we demonstrate analytically that the claims based on this analysis need to be reconsidered, as fractal correlation dimensions similar to the ones reported (i.e. smaller than the value of two expected for uniformly distributed raindrops) can result from instrumental artifacts (edge effects) in otherwise homogeneous Poissonian rainfall. Hence, the results of the blotting paper experiment are not statistically significant enough to reject the Poisson homogeneity hypothesis in favor of a fractal description of the discrete nature of rainfall. Our analysis is based on an analytical expression for the expected overlap area between a circle and a square, when the circle center is randomly (uniformly) distributed inside the square. The derived expression (πr2-8r 3/3+r4/2, where r denotes the ratio between the circle radius and the side of the square) can be used as a reference curve against which to test the statistical significance of fractal correlation dimensions determined from spatial point patterns, such as those of raindrops and rainfall cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalNonlinear Processes in Geophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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