Small-scale spatial gradients in climatological precipitation on the olympic Peninsula

Alison M. Anders, Gerard H. Roe, Dale R. Durran, Justin R. Minder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Persistent, 10-km-scale gradients in climatological precipitation tied to topography are documented with a finescale rain and snow gauge network in the Matheny Ridge area of the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. Precipitation totals are 50% higher on top of an ∼800-m-high ridge relative to valleys on either side, 10 km distant. Operational fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) runs on a 4-km grid produce similar precipitation patterns with enhanced precipitation over high topography for 6 water years. The performance of the MM5 is compared to the gauge data for 3 wet seasons and for 10 large precipitation events. The cumulative MM5 precipitation forecasts for all seasons and for the sum of all 10 large events compare well with the precipitation measured by the gauges, although some of the individual events are significantly over- or underforecast. This suggests that the MM5 is reproducing the precipitation climatology in the vicinity of the gauges, but that errors for individual events may arise due to inaccurate specification of the incident flow. A computationally simple model of orographic precipitation is shown to reproduce the major features of the event precipitation pattern on the windward side of the range. This simple model can be coupled to landscape evolution models to examine the impact of long-term spatial variability in precipitation on the evolution of topography over thousands to millions of years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1068-1081
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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