Something fishy going on? Evaluating the Poisson hypothesis for rainfall estimation using intervalometers: results from an experiment in Tanzania

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Abstract

A new type of rainfall sensor (the intervalometer), which counts the arrival of raindrops at a piezo electric element, is implemented during the Tanzanian monsoon season alongside tipping bucket rain gauges and an impact disdrometer. The aim is to test the validity of the Poisson hypothesis underlying the estimation of rainfall rates using an experimentally determined raindrop size distribution parameterisation based on Marshall and Palmer (1948)'s exponential one. These parameterisations are defined independently of the scale of observation and therefore implicitly assume that rainfall is a homogeneous Poisson process. The results show that 28.3 % of the total intervalometer observed rainfall patches can reasonably be considered Poisson distributed and that the main reasons for Poisson deviations of the remaining 71.7 % are non-compliance with the stationarity criterion (45.9 %), the presence of correlations between drop counts (7.0 %), particularly at higher arrival rates (ρa>500 m−2s−1), and failing a χ2 goodness-of-fit test for a Poisson distribution (17.7 %). Our results show that whilst the Poisson hypothesis is likely not strictly true for rainfall that contributes most to the total rainfall amount, it is quite useful in practice and may hold under certain rainfall conditions. The parameterisation that uses an experimentally determined power law relation between N0 and rainfall rate results in the best estimates of rainfall amount compared to co-located tipping bucket measurements. Despite the non-compliance with the Poisson hypothesis, estimates of total rainfall amount over the entire observational period derived from disdrometer drop counts are within 4 % of co-located tipping bucket measurements. Intervalometer estimates of total rainfall amount overestimate the co-located tipping bucket measurement by 12 %. The intervalometer principle shows potential for use as a rainfall measurement instrument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5607–5623
Number of pages17
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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