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Open AccessArticle

Impacts of Spatial Heterogeneity and Temporal Non-Stationarity on Intensity-Duration-Frequency Estimates—A Case Study in a Mountainous California-Nevada Watershed

1
Hydrology, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, USA
2
Earth Systems Analysis and Model, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(6), 1296; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11061296
Received: 8 April 2019 / Revised: 23 May 2019 / Accepted: 15 June 2019 / Published: 21 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
Changes in extreme precipitation events may require revisions of civil engineering standards to prevent water infrastructures from performing below the designated guidelines. Climate change may invalidate the intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) computation that is based on the assumption of data stationarity. Efforts in evaluating non-stationarity in the annual maxima series are inadequate, mostly due to the lack of long data records and convenient methods for detecting trends in the higher moments. In this study, using downscaled high resolution climate simulations of the historical and future periods under different carbon emission scenarios, we tested two solutions to obtain reliable IDFs under non-stationarity: (1) identify quasi-stationary time windows from the time series of interest to compute the IDF curves using data for the corresponding time windows; (2) introduce a parameter representing the trend in the means of the extreme value distributions. Focusing on a mountainous site, the Walker Watershed, the spatial heterogeneity and variability of IDFs or extremes are evaluated, particularly in terms of the terrain and elevation impacts. We compared observations-based IDFs that use the stationarity assumption with the two approaches that consider non-stationarity. The IDFs directly estimated based on the traditional stationarity assumption may underestimate the 100-year 24-h events by 10% to 60% towards the end of the century at most grids, resulting in significant under-designing of the engineering infrastructure at the study site. Strong spatial heterogeneity and variability in the IDF estimates suggest a preference for using high resolution simulation data for the reliable estimation of exceedance probability over data from sparsely distributed weather stations. Discrepancies among the three IDFs analyses due to non-stationarity are comparable to the spatial variability of the IDFs, underscoring a need to use an ensemble of non-stationary approaches to achieve unbiased and comprehensive IDF estimates. View Full-Text
Keywords: IDF; heterogeneity; non-stationarity; extreme precipitation; high-resolution and bias-corrected regional simulations; climate change IDF; heterogeneity; non-stationarity; extreme precipitation; high-resolution and bias-corrected regional simulations; climate change
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Ren, H.; Hou, Z.J.; Wigmosta, M.; Liu, Y.; Leung, L.R. Impacts of Spatial Heterogeneity and Temporal Non-Stationarity on Intensity-Duration-Frequency Estimates—A Case Study in a Mountainous California-Nevada Watershed. Water 2019, 11, 1296.

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