Modelling Precipitation Intensities from X-Band Radar Measurements Using Artificial Neural Networks

A Feasibility Study for the Bavarian Oberland Region

by Stefanie Vogl (E-Mail); Patrick Laux (E-Mail); Joachim Bialas (E-Mail); Christian Riefenberger (E-Mail)


Radar data may potentially provide valuable information for precipitation quantification, especially in regions with a sparse network of in situ observations or in regions with complex topography. Therefore, our aim is to conduct a feasibility study to quantify precipitation intensities based on radar measurements and additional meteorological variables. Beyond the well-established Z–R relationship for the quantification, this study employs Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) in different settings and analyses their performance. For this purpose, the radar data of a station in Upper Bavaria (Germany) is used and analysed for its performance in quantifying in situ observations. More specifically, the effects of time resolution, time offsets in the input data, and meteorological factors on the performance of the ANNs are investigated. It is found that ANNs that use actual reflectivity as only input are outperforming the standard Z–R relationship in reproducing ground precipitation. This is reflected by an increase in correlation between modelled and observed data from 0.67 (Z–R) to 0.78 (ANN) for hourly and 0.61 to 0.86, respectively, for 10 min time resolution. However, the focus of this study was to investigate if model accuracy benefits from additional input features. It is shown that an expansion of the input feature space by using time-lagged reflectivity with lags up to two and additional meteorological variables such as temperature, relative humidity, and sunshine duration significantly increases model performance. Thus, overall, it is shown that a systematic predictor screening and the correspondent extension of the input feature space substantially improves the performance of a simple Neural Network model. For instance, air temperature and relative humidity provide valuable additional input information. It is concluded that model performance is dependent on all three ingredients: time resolution, time lagged information, and additional meteorological input features. Taking all of these into account, the model performance can be optimized to a correlation of 0.9 and minimum model bias of 0.002 between observed and modelled precipitation data even with a simple ANN architecture.

Link to the full paper