A solid precipitation measurement intercomparison was recommended by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and was initiated after approval by the ninth session of the Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation. The goal of the intercomparison was to assess national methods of measuring solid precipitation against methods whose accuracy and reliability were known. A field study was started in Bismarck, N. Dak., during the 1988-89 winter as part of the intercomparison. The last official field season of the WMO intercomparison was 1992-93; however, the Bismarck site continued to operate through the winter of 1996-97.
Precipitation events at Bismarck were categorized as snow, mixed, or rain on the basis of descriptive notes recorded as part of the solid precipitation intercomparison. The rain events were not further analyzed in this study. Catch ratios (CRs) - the ratio of the precipitation catch at each gage to the true precipitation measurement (the corrected double fence intercomparison reference) - were calculated. Then, regression analysis was used to develop equations that model the snow and mixed precipitation CRs at each gage as functions of wind speed and temperature. Wind speed at the gages, functions of temperature, and upper air conditions (wind speed and air temperature at 700 millibars pressure) were used as possible explanatory variables in the multiple regression analysis done for this study. The CRs were modeled by using multiple regression analysis for the Tretyakov gage, national shielded gage, national unshielded gage, AeroChem gage, national gage with double fence, and national gage with Wyoming windshield.
As in earlier studies by the WMO, wind speed and air temperature were found to influence the CR of the Tretyakov gage. However, in this study, the temperature variable represented the average upper air temperature over the duration of the event. The WMO did not use upper air conditions in its analysis.
The national shielded and unshielded gages where found to be influenced by functions of wind speed only, as in other studies, but the upper air wind speed was used as an explanatory variable in this study. The AeroChem gage was not used in the WMO intercomparison study for 1987-93. The AeroChem gage had a highly varied CR at Bismarck, and a number of variables related to wind speed and temperature were used in the model for the CR. Despite extensive efforts to find a model for the national gage with double fence, no statistically significant regression model was found at the 0.05 level of statistical significance. The national gage with Wyoming windshield had a CR modeled by temperature and wind speed variables, and the regression relation had the highest coefficient of determination (R2 = 0.572) and adjusted coefficient of multiple determination (R2a = 0.476) of all of the models identified for any gage.
Three of the gage CRs evaluated could be compared with those in the WMO intercomparison study for 1987-93. The WMO intercomparison had the advantage of a much larger dataset than this study. However, the data in this study represented a longer time period. Snow precipitation catch is highly varied depending on the equipment used and the weather conditions. Much of the variation is not accounted for in the WMO equations or in the equations developed in this study, particularly for unshielded gages.
Extensive attempts at regression analysis were made with the mixed precipitation data, but it was concluded that the sample sizes were not large enough to model the CRs. However, the data could be used to test the WMO intercomparison equations. The mixed precipitation equations for the Tretyakov and national shielded gages are similar to those for snow in that they are more likely to underestimate precipitation when observed amounts were small and overestimate precipitation when observed amounts were relatively large. Mixed precipitation is underestimated by the WMO adjustment and t
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Solid precipitation measurement intercomparison in Bismarck, North Dakota, from 1988 through 1997
Scientific Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Dakota Water Science Center, North Dakota Water Science Center