Diurnal rainfall variability over the Upper Blue Nile Basin: a remote sensing based approach

T.H.M. Rientjes, A.T. Haile, A.A. Fenta

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In this study we aim to assess the diurnal cycle of rainfall across the Upper Blue Nile (UBN) basin using satellite observations from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). Seven years (2002-2008) of Precipitation Radar (PR) and TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) data are used and analyses are based on GIS operations and simple statistical techniques. Observations from PR and TMI reveal that over most parts of the basin area, the rainfall occurrence and conditional mean rain rate are highest between midand late-afternoon (15:00-18:00 LST). Exceptions to this are the south-west and south-eastern parts of the basin area and the Lake Tana basin where midnight and early morning maxima are observed. Along the Blue Nile River gorge the rainfall occurrence and the conditional mean rain rate are highest during the night (20:00-23:00 LST). Orographic effects by large scale variation of topography, elevation and the presence of the UBN river gorge were assessed taking two transects across the basin. Along transects from north to south and from east to west results indicate increased rainfall with increase of elevation whereas areas on the windward side of the high mountain ranges receive higher amount of rainfall than areas on the leeward side. As such, mountain ranges and elevation affect the rainfall distribution resulting in rain shadow effect in the north-eastern parts of Choke-mountain and the ridges in the north-east of the basin. Moreover, a direct relation between rainfall occurrence and elevation is observed specifically for 17:00-18:00 LST. Further, results indicate that the rainfall distribution in the deeply incised and wide river gorge is affected with relatively low rainfall occurrence and low mean rainfall rates in the gorge areas. Seasonal mean rainfall depth is highest in the south-west area and central highlands of the basin while areas in the north, north-east and along the Blue Nile gorge receive the least amount of rainfall. Statistical results of this work show that the diurnal cycle of rainfall occurrence from TRMM estimates show significant correlation with the ground observations at 95% confidence level. In the UBN basin, the PR conditional mean rain rate estimates are closer to the ground observations than the TMI. Analysis on mean wet season rainfall amount indicates that PR generally underestimates and TMI overestimates the ground observed rainfall.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-325
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation (JAG)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Diurnal rainfall
  • IR-83731
  • METIS-293915
  • Upper Blue Nile


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