Downscaling of daily rainfall occurrence over northeast Brazil using a hidden Markov model

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Journal of Climate
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A hidden Markov model (HMM) is used to describe daily rainfall occurrence at 10 gauge stations in the state of Ceara in northeast Brazil during the February-April wet season 1975-2002. The model assumes that rainfall occurrence is governed by a few discrete states, with Markovian daily transitions between them. Four "hidden" rainfall states are identified. One pair of the states represents wet-versus-dry conditions at all stations, while a second pair of states represents north-south gradients in rainfall occurrence. The estimated daily state-sequence is characterized by a systematic seasonal evolution, together with considerable variability on intraseasonal, interannual, and longer time scales. The first pair of states are shown to be associated with large-scale displacements of the tropical convergence zones, and with teleconnections typical of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation.A nonhomogeneous HMM (NHMM) is then used to downscale daily precipitation occurrence at the 10 stations, using general circulation model (GCM) simulations of seasonal-mean large-scale precipitation, obtained with historical sea surface temperatures prescribed globally. Interannual variability of the GCM's large-scale precipitation simulation is well correlated with seasonal- and spatial-averaged station rainfall-occurrence data. Simulations from the NHMM are found to be able to reproduce this relationship. The GCM-NHMM simulations are also able to capture quite well interannual changes in daily rainfall occurrence and 10-day dry spell frequencies at some individual stations. It is suggested that the NHMM provides a useful tool (a) to understand the statistics of daily rainfall occurrence at the station level in terms of large-scale atmospheric patterns, and (b) to produce station-scale daily rainfall sequence scenarios for input into crop models, etc.


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