Articles | Volume 11, issue 7
Research article
04 Jul 2011
Research article |  | 04 Jul 2011

Predictive ability of severe rainfall events over Catalonia for the year 2008

A. Comellas, L. Molini, A. Parodi, A. Sairouni, M. C. Llasat, and F. Siccardi

Abstract. This paper analyses the predictive ability of quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) and the so-called "poor-man" rainfall probabilistic forecasts (RPF). With this aim, the full set of warnings issued by the Meteorological Service of Catalonia (SMC) for potentially-dangerous events due to severe precipitation has been analysed for the year 2008. For each of the 37 warnings, the QPFs obtained from the limited-area model MM5 have been verified against hourly precipitation data provided by the rain gauge network covering Catalonia (NE of Spain), managed by SMC. For a group of five selected case studies, a QPF comparison has been undertaken between the MM5 and COSMO-I7 limited-area models. Although MM5's predictive ability has been examined for these five cases by making use of satellite data, this paper only shows in detail the heavy precipitation event on the 9–10 May 2008. Finally, the "poor-man" rainfall probabilistic forecasts (RPF) issued by SMC at regional scale have also been tested against hourly precipitation observations. Verification results show that for long events (>24 h) MM5 tends to overestimate total precipitation, whereas for short events (≤24 h) the model tends instead to underestimate precipitation. The analysis of the five case studies concludes that most of MM5's QPF errors are mainly triggered by very poor representation of some of its cloud microphysical species, particularly the cloud liquid water and, to a lesser degree, the water vapor. The models' performance comparison demonstrates that MM5 and COSMO-I7 are on the same level of QPF skill, at least for the intense-rainfall events dealt with in the five case studies, whilst the warnings based on RPF issued by SMC have proven fairly correct when tested against hourly observed precipitation for 6-h intervals and at a small region scale.

Throughout this study, we have only dealt with (SMC-issued) warning episodes in order to analyse deterministic (MM5 and COSMO-I7) and probabilistic (SMC) rainfall forecasts; therefore we have not taken into account those episodes that might (or might not) have been missed by the official SMC warnings. Therefore, whenever we talk about "misses", it is always in relation to the deterministic LAMs' QPFs.