Values of average annual precipitation (AAP) may be important for hydrologic characterization of a potential high-level nuclear-waste repository site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Reliable measurements of AAP are sparse in the vicinity of Yucca Mountain, and estimates of AAP were needed for an isohyetal mapping over a 2600-square-mile watershed containing Yucca Mountain. Estimates were obtained with a multivariate geostatistical model developed using AAP and elevation data from a network of 42 precipitation stations in southern Nevada and southeastern California. An additional 1531 elevations were obtained to improve estimation accuracy. Isohyets representing estimates obtained using univariate geostatistics (kriging) defined a smooth and continuous surface. Isohyets representing estimates obtained using multivariate geostatistics (cokriging) defined an irregular surface that more accurately represented expected local orographic influences on AAP. Cokriging results included a maximum estimate within the study area of 335 mm at an elevation of 7400 ft, an average estimate of 157 mm for the study area, and an average estimate of 172 mm at eight locations in the vicinity of the potential repository site. Kriging estimates tended to be lower in comparison because the increased AAP expected for remote mountainous topography was not adequately represented by the available sample. Regression results between cokriging estimates and elevation were similar to regression results between measured AAP and elevation. The position of the cokriging 250-mm isohyet relative to the boundaries of pinyon pine and juniper woodlands provided indirect evidence of improved estimation accuracy because the cokriging result agreed well with investigations by others concerning the relationship between elevation, vegetation, and climate in the Great Basin. Calculated estimation variances were also mapped and compared to evaluate improvements in estimation accuracy. Cokriging estimation variances were reduced by an average of 54% relative to kriging variances within the study area. Cokriging reduced estimation variances at the potential repository site by 55% relative to kriging. The usefulness of an existing network of stations for measuring AAP within the study area was evaluated using cokriging variances, and twenty additional stations were located for the purpose of improving the accuracy of future isohyetal mappings. Using the expanded network of stations, the maximum cokriging estimation variance within the study area was reduced by 78% relative to the existing network, and the average estimation variance was reduced by 52%.
Additional publication details
Precipitation estimation in mountainous terrain using multivariate geostatistics. Part II: isohyetal maps