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Open Access Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 33(1)

A new empirical model of sub-daily rainfall intensity and its application in a rangeland biophysical model

G. W. Fraser A B, J. O. Carter A, G. M. McKeon A and K. A. Day A

A Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Department of Environment and Resource Management, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: grant.fraser@derm.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 33(1) 37-48 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ10037
Submitted: 16 July 2010  Accepted: 24 January 2011   Published: 23 March 2011

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Sub-daily rainfall intensity has a significant impact on runoff and erosion rates in northern Australian rangelands. However, it has been difficult to include sub-daily rainfall intensity in rangeland biophysical models using historical climate data due to the limited number of pluviograph stations with long-term records. In this paper a new empirical model (‘Temperature I15’ model) was developed to predict the daily maximum 15-min rainfall intensity (I15) using daily minimum and maximum temperature and daily rainfall totals from 12 selected pluviograph stations across Australia. The ‘Temperature I15’ model accounted for 46% (P < 0.01) of the variation in observed daily I15 for an independent validation dataset derived from 67 Australia-wide pluviograph stations and represented both geographical and seasonal variability in I15. The model also accounted for 70% (P < 0.01) of the variation in the observed historical trend in I15 for the full record period (average record period was 37 years) of 73 Australia-wide pluviograph stations.

The ‘Temperature I15’ model was found to be an improvement on a past empirical model of I15 and can be easily implemented in biophysical models by using readily available daily climate data. However, as the ‘Temperature I15’ model only represented 46% of the variation in daily observed I15, the model is best used in simulation studies on ‘timeframes’ in excess of 5 years.

The new ‘Temperature I15’ model was implemented in the runoff equation of the Australia-wide spatial pasture growth model AussieGRASS, which predicts daily water balance and pasture growth for 185 different pasture communities. This resulted in an improved simulation of green cover for 71% of pasture communities but was worse for 25% of communities, with no change for 4% of communities.

Additional keywords: Australian rangelands, climate change, hydrological factors, precipitation intensity, runoff water, soil erosion.


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