2020
  • ICIMOD publication

Evaluation of MERRA-2 precipitation products using gauge observation in Nepal

  • Kalpana Hamal
  • Shankar Sharma
  • Nitesh Khadka
  • Binod Baniya
  • Munawar Ali
  • Mandira Singh Shrestha
  • Tianli Xu
  • Dibas Shrestha

Precipitation is the most important variable in the climate system and the dominant driver of land surface hydrologic conditions. Rain gauge measurement provides precipitation estimates on the ground surface; however, these measurements are sparse, especially in the high-elevation areas of Nepal. Reanalysis datasets are the potential alternative for precipitation measurement, although it must be evaluated and validated before use. This study evaluates the performance of second-generation Modern-ERA Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA-2) datasets with the 141-gauge observations from Nepal between 2000 and 2018 on monthly, seasonal, and annual timescales. Different statistical measures based on the Correlation Coefficient (R), Mean Bias (MB), Root-Mean-Square Error (RMSE), and Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) were adopted to determine the performance of both MERRA-2 datasets. The results revealed that gauge calibrated (MERRA-C) underestimated, whereas model-only (MERRA-NC) overestimated the observed seasonal cycle of precipitation. However, both datasets were able to reproduce seasonal precipitation cycle with a high correlation (R ≥ 0.95), as revealed by observation. MERRA-C datasets showed a more consistent spatial performance (higher R-value) to the observed datasets than MERRA-NC, while MERRA-NC is more reasonable to estimate precipitation amount (lower MB) across the country. Both MERRA-2 datasets performed better in winter, post-monsoon, and pre-monsoon than in summer monsoon. Moreover, MERRA-NC overestimated the observed precipitation in mid and high-elevation areas, whereas MERRA-C severely underestimated at most of the stations throughout all seasons. Among both datasets, MERRA-C was only able to reproduce the observed elevation dependency pattern. Furthermore, uncertainties in MERRA-2 precipitation products mentioned above are still worthy of attention by data developers and users.

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