Flash Flood Verification: Pondering Precipitation Proxies
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Flash Flood Verification: Pondering Precipitation Proxies

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Hydrometeorology
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    Quantitative precipitation estimate (QPE) exceedances of numerous different heavy precipitation thresholds—including spatially varying average recurrence interval (ARI) and flash flood guidance (FFG) thresholds—are compared among each other and against reported and warned flash floods to quantify existing deficiencies with QPEs and to identify best practices for using QPE for flash flood forecasting and analysis. QPEs from three different sources—NCEP Stage IV Precipitation Analysis (ST4), Climatology Calibrated Precipitation Analysis (CCPA), and Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) QPE—are evaluated across the United States from January 2015 to June 2017. In addition to evaluating different QPE sources, threshold types, and magnitudes, QPE accumulation interval lengths from hourly to daily are considered. Systematic errors with QPE sources are identified, including a radar distance dependence on extreme rainfall frequency in MRMS, spurious occurrences of locally extreme precipitation in the complex terrain of the West in ST4, and insufficient QPEs for many legitimate heavy precipitation events in CCPA. Overall, flash flood warnings and reports corresponded to each other far more than any QPE exceedances. Correspondence between all sources was at a maximum in the East and worst in the West, with ST4, CCPA, and MRMS QPE exceedances locally yielding maximal correspondence in the East, Plains, and West, respectively. Surprisingly, using a fixed 2.5 in. (24 h)−1 proxy outperformed shorter accumulation exceedances and the use of ARIs and FFGs. On regional scales, different ARI exceedances achieved superior performance to the selection of any fixed threshold; FFG exceedances were consistently too rare to achieve optimal correspondence with observed flash flooding.
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    J. Hydrometeor., 19, 1753–1776
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    Submitted
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