Scaling and distributional properties of precipitation interamount times

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The scaling and distributional properties of precipitation interamount times (IATs) are investigated using 10 years of high-resolution rain gauge observations from the U.S. Climate Reference Network. Results show that IATs above 200 mm tend to be approximately uncorrelated and normally distributed. As one moves toward smaller scales, autocorrelation and skewness increase and distributions progressively evolve into Weibull, Gamma, lognormal, and Pareto. This procession is interpreted as a sign of increasing complexity from large to small scales in a system composed of many interacting components. It shows that, as one approaches finer scales, IATs take over more of the characteristics of power-law distributions and (multi)fractals. Regression analysis on the log moments reveals that IATs generally exhibit better scaling, that is, smaller departures from multifractality, than precipitation amounts over the same range of scales. The improvement is attributed to the fact that IATs, unlike rainfall rates, always remain positive, no matter how small the scale. In particular, the scaling is shown to be more resilient to dry periods within rain events. Nevertheless, most analyzed IAT time series still exhibited a breakpoint at about 20 mm (7 days), corresponding to the average lifetime of a low pressure system at midlatitudes. Additional breakpoints in IATs at smaller and larger time scales are possible, but could not be determined unambiguously. The results highlight the potential of IATs as a new and promising tool for the stochastic modeling, simulation, and downscaling of precipitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1167-1184
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Precipitation
  • Sampling
  • Statistical techniques
  • Stochastic models
  • Surface observations
  • Time series

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