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PRECIPITATION

5.1
Introduction
Precipitation represents the falling of water in various forms from the clouds to the surface of the earth.
The usual forms are rain and snow, although it may also occur in the form of fog, dew, sheet, hail and
frost. Most precipitation in Africa occurs in the form of rain. In a few high altitude places like at the
peaks of mountains like Mt. Rwenzori and Mt. Kenya, it occurs as snow.
Precipitation occurs as a result of evaporation. Evaporation is caused by the energy from the sun that
warms the surface of the earth, which in turn warms the surrounding air making it lighter and causing it to
rise. The rate of evaporation is dependent upon i) the temperature at the evaporating surface and that of
the surrounding air, ii) the vapour pressure of the existing water vapour in the air, iii) the saturation
deficit. (The saturation deficit is the difference between saturated vapour pressure and the air pressure at
room temperature) and iv) the wind speed.
If the evaporation continues, a state of equilibrium is reached when the air is fully saturated with water
vapour and cannot absorb any more water vapour. This point is called the saturated vapour pressure.
The oceans constitute 94% of the earth's water and constitute a vast reservoir relatively undisturbed.
From the surface of the seas and oceans, water is evaporated and transferred to temporary storage in the
atmosphere. This is the first stage in the Hydrological Cycle. The process of evaporation is better
appreciated with a few important definitions and reference to Fig 5.1 (Shaw, 1992).
a) Saturation - air is saturated when it contains the maximum amount of water vapour at the prevailing
temperature. At any temperature T = Ta the corresponding vapour pressure e = ea.
b) Dew Point - is the temperature Td at which a mass of unsaturated air becomes saturated when cooled
while the pressure remains constant. If air at Ta is cooled to Td the saturation vapour pressure is ed.
c) Saturation deficit - is the difference between the saturation vapour pressure at air temperature, T a and
the actual vapour pressure at Td the dew point and is denoted as (ea - ed). It represents the additional
amount of water air can hold at temperature Ta.
d) Relative humidity - is the relative measure of the amount of moisture in the air ea to the amount
needed to saturate the air at the same temperature ed
RH

ea/ed x 100%

(5.1)

e) Super Saturation - is when saturated air takes up more water vapour as a result of being in contact
with water in a sufficiently finely divided state. For instance, very small water droplets in clouds. At
temperatures below zero, there are two saturation vapour curves. One with respect to water (ew) and
another with respect to ice (ei) as shown in the inset Fig 5.1. In the zone between the curves, air is
unsaturated with respect to the atmosphere. As evaporation continues, the air above the water
eventually becomes saturated and cannot take up any more moisture, thus evaporation ceases.

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Fig 5.1 The Saturation vapour pressure and temperature curve.


Inset is the curve for temperatures below zero
Source: Shaw, 1994

5.2
Precipitation Formation
Moisture is always present in the atmosphere and precipitation only occurs when some mechanism cools
the atmospheric air and brings it to saturation along with the following conditions (Arora, 2007).
I.
II.
III.
IV.

Accumulation of moisture
Cooling of air masses
Formation of clouds
Growth of water droplets

i)
Accumulation of Moisture
The air must contain sufficient amount of moisture, so that appreciable precipitation can occur after
meeting the losses between the clouds and the ground. The accumulation of moisture occurs as a result of
evaporation from land, vegetation and water surfaces.
ii)
Cooling of air masses
Cooling occurs when air ascends from the earth's surface to the upper levels of the atmosphere. The rate
of cooling is governed by the lapse rate in the Troposphere. Depending on the process causing lifting and
cooling, precipitation may be classified as orographic, convective or cyclonic.
iii)
Formation of clouds
Clouds are formed due to condensation, when water vapour is converted into liquid droplets or ice
crystals, usually at low temperatures. Water droplets in a cloud can be compared to solid particles in a
colloidal suspension. The saturation of water vapour in the atmosphere does not necessarily result in the
formation of clouds. Condensation nuclei or hygroscopic nuclei are essential for the conversion of water
vapour into water droplets. Condensation nuclei are present in the atmosphere due to combustion of
solids and particles from the sea. They vary in size from 0.001 microns to 10 microns. The number of
nuclei per cm3 varies from a few, to several million in different regions of the atmosphere.
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The rate of condensation increases with the number of nuclei present. Usually there are sufficient
numbers of nuclei in the air, to cause condensation as soon as saturation occurs.
iv)
Growth of water droplets
The size of water droplets in a cloud is very small (about 0.02mm in diameter) and it is necessary for
them to increase in size before precipitation can occur. The coalescence of droplets occurs to form larger
raindrops which can overcome air resistance when falling. Coalescence takes place due to the difference
in velocity of the larger droplets and small droplets and coexistence of ice crystal and water droplets.
The limit of the water droplets and raindrops is usually 0.2mm. However the diameter of raindrops
reaching the ground is much more than 0.2mm.
5.3
Types of Precipitation
Precipitation is classified according to the factors responsible for lifting and cooling the air. There are
five types: a) Convectional b) Orographic c) Cyclonic d) Frontal and e) Turbulent ascent
a)

Convectional

Convectional rainfall mainly occurs in the equatorial and tropical climatic regions, where the
conditions are hot during the day. In these regions, the rate of evaporation of moisture from the water
bodies and respiration from the dense vegetation is very high. The evaporated moisture along with its hot
surrounding air begins to ascend. With gain in altitude, the air expands dynamically due to a decrease in
air pressure.

Fig 5.2 The formation of convectional rainfall


Source:www.nature.com/nature/journal

Due to this, the wind experiences a decrease in temperature, which results in the increase of the relative
humidity. This causes condensation of water vapour into water droplets to form cumulonimbus clouds.
When the cloud droplets become too heavy to be suspended, rain falls. Convectional precipitation is
normally of short duration, covers a small area (less than 50km2) and is sometimes of high intensity. It
occurs in the form of local whirling thunderstorms and when accompanied by high velocity destructive
winds it may become a tornado. The formation is illustrated in Fig 5.2.

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b)

Orographic

Orographic rain (relief rain) is a result of warm moisture-laden wind blowing in to the land from the sea
encountering a natural barrier such as mountains. This forces the air to rise. With a gain in altitude, the air
expands due to a decrease in air pressure. Due to this, the wind experiences a decrease in temperature,
which results in the increase of the relative humidity. This causes condensation of water vapor into water
droplets to form clouds. The relative humidity continues to increase until the dew point reaches the level
of condensation, causing air to be saturated. When the cloud droplets become too heavy to be suspended,
then rain falls. The side of the mountain with rain is called the windward side.

Fig 5.3 The formation of orographic (relief) rainfall


Source:www.nature.com/nature/journal

As the wind descends on the leeward side of the mountain range, it becomes compressed and warm. This
results in the decrease of the relative humidity of the wind on the windward side of the mountain. Hence
the leeward side of the mountains does not receive any rain from these winds. The leeward side is called
the rain shadow region of the mountains. This is illustrated in Fig 5.3.
This type occurs due to lifting of moist air over mountains by wind. It results in cooling, condensation
and precipitation. Heavy precipitation occurs on the windward side of the mountain, whereas the leeward
side has very little precipitation.
c)
Cyclonic
A cyclone is a large zone of low pressure, which is surrounded by circular wind motion. Air tends to
move into the low-pressure zone from surrounding areas and displaces low pressure air upwards. The
winds blow spirally inward counter clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern
hemisphere. Cyclonic precipitation occurs due to displacement of air in the upward direction. The
normal extent of a cyclone is 100 - 200 km in diameter while the centre called an eye may extend up to
about 10 - 50 km. The eye is relatively quiet while outside very strong winds blow with speed as high as
200 km/hr. The rainfall can be quite high in the cyclonic areas.

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a) Frontal
Frontal rain is caused by cyclonic activity and it occurs along the fronts of the cyclone. It is formed when
two masses of air of different temperature, humidity and density meet. The layer separating them is called
the front. This front has two parts i.e. the warm front and the cold front. At the warm front, the warm
lighter air rises gently over the heavier cold air. As the warm air rises, it cools, and the moisture present in
it condenses to form clouds, which become heavy and results in rain. This is as shown in Fig 5.4.

Fig 5.4 The formation of frontal rainfall


Source:www.nature.com/nature/journal

At the cold front, the cold air forces the warm air to rise rapidly causing its moisture to condense quickly,
which results in the formation of cumulonimbus clouds. The rainfall from these clouds is usually heavy
and lasts for a short while.It can be divided into two types.
i)

Warm frontal precipitation. - In this case, warm air replaces the cold air mass by moving up a
relatively stationary wedge of cold air. It is normally spread over a large area 300 - 500 km ahead
of the warm front and is usually light and moderate.

ii)

Cold frontal precipitation - In this case, the cold air replaces a warm mass forcing the warm air
upwards by an advancing wedge of cold air. It usually occurs over a small area 100 to 150 km
ahead of the front. The precipitation is usually intense.

e)
Turbulent ascent
This type occurs when an air mass is forced to rise up due to friction of the earth surface this being greater
than that of the water surface. The air mass after its travel over the ocean rises up because of increased
turbulence and friction.
5.4
Forms of Precipitation
Precipitation occurs in various forms as are mentioned below:
Drizzle: The precipitation occurs in the form of fine sprinkle of very small drops. The diameter of the
drops is uniform and it varies from 0.1 to 0.5 mm. The water drops are in very large number and seem to
float in air. The intensity is usually less than 0.1 cm/hour.
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Rain: Most of the precipitation in Uganda is in the form of rain. In rain, the precipitation occurs in the
form of large water drops, with diameter larger than 0.5mm, but less than 6mm.
Snow: Snow is the precipitation in the form of solid ice crystals. These crystals usually carry a thin
coating of liquid water and form large flakes when they collide with one another. However, at very low
temperature, these crystals are dry and do not form large flakes.
Hail: The precipitation in the form of balls or irregular lumps of ice of diameter 5mm or more is called
hail. The grains of soft hail are round and opaque. Soft hail disintegrates when it strikes the hard ground
surface. Hail usually occurs in violent thunderstorms.
Glaze: Glaze is a form of precipitation which falls as rain and freezes when striking the ground. It occurs
when there is a cold layer of air with a temperature below zero degrees Celsius. When the objects such as
trees and power lines on which precipitation occurs are very cold, glaze occurs on them. Glaze is also
known as freezing rain.
Select: Select is the precipitation in the form of melting snow. It is a mixture of snow and rain. It
consists of transparent, solid grains of ice formed by freezing of rain drops. These pellets are generally
between 1 mm and 4 mm in diameter. Select is also known as small hail. Sometimes, precipitation
begins as snow in the upper layers of atmosphere, turns into select in the middle layer and reaches the
earth as rain.
Frost: Frost is a form of precipitation, which occurs in the form of scales, needles, feathers or fans. It is
a type of dew in which the water vapour in the air is transformed directly into the ice crystals, which fall
on the earth.
Dew: Dew is a form of precipitation, which does not occur because of condensation in higher layer of
atmosphere, but it is formed by condensation directly on the ground. Dew occurs in the night when the
ground surface is cooled by outgoing radiation. Although the quantity of water in dew is quite small, it is
extremely useful for the growth of plants and crops in arid regions (Arora, 2007).
5.4.1 Cloud Seeding
Precipitation normally results from freezing of super-cooled water onto small atmospheric particles (ice
nuclei). It was discovered that certain salts, notably Silver iodide or common salt, can induce precipitation by
acting as an additional nuclei. Cloud seeding is therefore the introduction of salt crystals, usually from an
aircraft, into existing clouds so that immediate freezing occurs. This presses the cloud particles to precipitate
and result in rain (Mansell, 2002).
Cloud seeding is seen to be as one of the ways to mitigate droughts. However, it should be known that cloud
seeding can only accelerate and increase the amount of rainfall and not create rainfall when conditions are not
favourable. Seeding is unlikely to be effective in clear skies or where the cloud temperature is above -5C
because of absence of super-cooled water droplets. The relative humidity must also be high and wind velocity
<15-20 km/hr. Cloud seeding is particularly effective with convective cumulus clouds and is less effective
with the stratus type of clouds (Anon, 2008).

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5.5

Recording Precipitation

5.5.1
i)

Rainfall measurement
Non Recording Standard rain gauges are made from copper and consist of a 5-in. diameter
copper cylinder, with a chamfered upper edge, which collects the rain and allows it to drain
through a funnel into a removable container of metal or glass from which the rain may be poured
into a graduated glass measuring cylinder each day. There are prescribed patterns for the
standard gauge and for its installation and operation.

ii)

Recording Gauges (or autographic rain recorders) usually work by having a clockwork-driven
drum carrying a graph on which a pen records either the total weight of container plus water
collected, or a series of blips made each time a small container of known capacity spills its
contents. Such gauges are for the more rarely visited sites. They have the great advantage that
they indicate intensity of rainfall, which is a factor of importance in many problems. For this
reason some stations are equipped with both standard and recording gauges. Examples of this
type include Tipping Bucket Type, the weighing Bucket type and the Natural Syphon type. A
typical rain gauge is shown in Fig 5.5.

iii)

Telemetering rain gauge


These are the recording type and contain electronic units to transmit the data on rainfall to a base
station both at regular intervals and on interrogation. The tipping bucket type is ideally suited.
The Telemetering rain gauges are particularly useful for gathering rainfall data from generally
inaccessible places.

iv)

Radar measurement
Radio Detecting and Ranging (RADAR) is a powerful tool for determining the areal extent,
orientation and movement of rainstorms. Furthermore, the amounts of rainfall over large areas
can be measured to a good degree of accuracy. When rain drops intercept a radar beam, it has
been shown that

Pr

CZ
r2

(5.2)

where:
Pr = average echo power
Z = radar - echo factor
r = distance to target volume and C a constant
In general, the factor Z is related to the intensity of rainfall as
Z = aIb

(5.3)

where a and b are constant and I is intensity of rain in mm/h.


The values a and b are determined by calibration. Present day developments in the field include, on line
processing of radar data on a computer and Doppler type radars for measuring the velocity and
distribution of raindrops (Subramanya, 1994).

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v)

Remote Sensing and Rainfall Estimation

Remote sensing is the science and art of obtaining useful information about an object on or near the
earths surface, without being in direct or physical contact, or the techniques of using sensing devices that
are located at a distance from the object under investigation and analysing the captured data to provide
meaningful information. Remote sensing can provide direct inputs to forecasting procedures in the areas
of area rainfall; areal extent of flood plain inundation; cloud images in different spectral bands (visible,
infrared and water vapour); typical cyclone or hurricane movements; areal extent and water equivalent of
snow pack and water quality.
Rainfall is one of the noisiest meteorological parameters, whether considered through space or through
time, yet one of the most important in agrometeorology. At any instant, the fraction of the earth actually
receiving rain cannot be much more than one half of 1%. There is a wide range of intensities of
instantaneous rain rates from practically zero to above 100mm/h. The variation of rainfall intensity with
duration can be large from storm to storm as well as from region to region (Barret and Martin, 1981).
Many satellite based techniques have been developed since the late 1960s when meteorological satellite
imagery became available. Many of these techniques have been developed for particular needs in specific
areas. These methods are still being developed and require calibration with field data (Sayed, 2002).
Satellite data for rainfall estimation originate from two types of satellite. The first are geostationary
satellites, which remain stationary with respect to the earth, use infrared channels to infer rainfall rates
from cloud top temperatures and provide high resolution data with continuous temporal coverage for the
observed region. The second are polar orbiting satellites, which use microwave channels and can provide
better estimates of rainfall by monitoring the scattering of naturally emitted (passive) microwaves within
the clouds. However, as these satellites pass over a given location only once or twice a day, there are gaps
in the time series of data for any studied region.
A study was carried out in Uganda, to evaluate the ability of satellite products to: i) replicate the gauged
monthly variability of rainfall amounts and occurrence within each region, ii) replicate the spatial
variation of rainfall amounts and occurrence between regions. The recent satellite estimates 2003-2007
were compared with the historical (1960-1990) gauged statistics. The results showed that TRMM 3B42
(from NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, USA) and TAMSAT indicated the greatest similarity to
gauged data across most aspects of rainfall estimation. CMORPH (from NOAA, Climate Prediction
Centre, USA) showed greater similarity to historical data in the seasonal progression than spatial patterns
of rainfall. Furthermore, the African Rainfall Estimation Algorithm Version 2 (RFE 2.0) showed greater
spatial ability than temporal, while the PERSIANN system (from the University of California, Irvine
USA) compares favourably in terms of seasonal patterns of rainfall in regions with lower elevation. This
showed that satellite based rainfall estimation products can be used to represent the main seasonal and
spatial feature of monthly rainfall in Uganda, especially if the patterns of occurrence are scaled to
amounts using calibration to the ground gauged values (Asadullah et al, 2008).

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Fig 5.5 A Standard Raingauge

Errors in measurement
A number of errors can occur in the measurement of rainfall with a rain gauge. In general a rain gauge
underestimates the actual rainfall. The sources of errors are as follows:
i)

Some rainfall is always lost in wetting the dry surface of the receiver. The error can be reduced
by keeping the surface smooth.

ii) Some spillage always occurs when transferring water from the bottle to the measuring jar in a non
recording gauge and it is not always possible to completely empty the bottle.
iii) There can be change in the exposure area of the receiver due to bends and dents in the rim or
improper readings by the observers. These errors can be reduced by proper training of the
observer and taking necessary precaution (Arora, 2007).
Site for a Rain Gauge Station
When selecting a site for installation of a rain gauge station, the following points should be borne in
mind.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

The site should be in an open area of at least 5.5m square.


The distance of the instrument from the nearest abstraction should not be less than 30m.
It should not be placed at the top of a hill but rather on the side of a hill as protection against
high winds is required.
A fence should be erected around to protect the gauge against animals.
It should be firmly mounted to prevent disturbance by strong winds and near the ground
surface to prevent wind effects but also high enough to prevent splashing of water.
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6.

It should have a horizontal level of catch surface (Arora, 2007).

Rain Gauge Network


Since the catchment area of a rain gauge is very small compared to the areal extent of a storm, it is
necessary that in order to get a representative picture of a storm over a catchment, the number of rain
gauges should be as large as possible. The catchment area per gauge should be small. Economic
considerations to a larger extent, while topography, accessibility to a lesser extent, restrict the number of
gauges to be installed and maintained. World Meteorological Organization (WMO, 1994) recommends
the following minimum densities per station (area in km2 per station) as shown in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1: Recommended minimum densities of precipitation stations
Non Recording km2 per station

Physiographic Unit

Recording km2 per station

Coastal

900

9000

Mountainous

250

2500

Interior Plains

575

5750

Hilly/ undulating

575

5750

Small Islands

25

250

Urban Areas

10-20

10,000

100,000

Polar/ arid

Source: (WMO, 1994)

Ten percent of rain gauge stations should be equipped with self - recording gauges to know the intensities
of rainfall.
If there are already some rain gauge stations in a catchment, the optimal number of stations that should
exist to have an assigned percentage of error in the estimation of mean rainfall is obtained by statistical
analysis as:
N = Cv2

(5.4)

where:
N

Cv

= optimal number of stations


= allowable degree of error in the estimate of the mean rainfall and
= coefficient of variation of the rainfall values at the existing m stations (in percent).

If there are m stations in the catchment each recording rainfall values P1, P2 , Pi . Pm in a known
time, the coefficient of variation Cv is calculated as:

Cv

100 x m 1
_

(5.5)

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Where

m 1

2
_

P
i

m 1

is the standard deviation


Pi is the precipitation magnitude in the ith station
_

1 m
Pi is the mean precipitation
m 1

In calculating N from the equation 5.4 above, it is usual to take = 10%. It is seen that if the value of
is small, the number of rainguage stations will be more.
In Uganda, rainfall records are received and recorded by the Meteorological Office from some 360 rain
gauges scattered over Uganda, the majority giving daily values of rainfall. In addition there are a further
260 stations equipped also with recording rain gauges that record continuously.
Considerable effort has been devoted to this question of hydrological network design and the reader is
referred to the further reading at the end of the chapter. A study by Basalirwa, (1995) based on the spatial
and temporal rainfall characteristics, using the Principal Component Analysis showed that Uganda can be
divided into 14 homogeneous climatic subregions. These climatological zones are useful in the planning
and management of rainfall dependant activities such as determining crop varieties for a specific area,
delineation of risk zones for drought forecasting and flood warning, or areas where there is rainfall
surplus. Fig 5.6 shows the 16 updated climatological zones by the Directorate of Water Resources
Management, Entebbe, Uganda.

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Fig 5.6 Map showing the Climatological Regions in Uganda


Source: Directorate of Water Resources Management, Entebbe, Uganda, 1998

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Table 5.2 Description of Climatological zones


Zone
G

Annual Rainfall and its zonal


variability
Average of 745 mm, STD 145
mm. High variability, from ~ 600
over the north and northeastern
parts to ~ 1000 mm over the
southern and western parts.
Average of 1197 mm, STD 169
mm. Moderate variability, from ~
1000 over the north and
northeastern parts to ~ 1300 mm
over western and southern parts

One rainy season of about 5


months, from April to early
September with the main peak in
July/August and a secondary peak
in May.
One rainy season of about 7
months, April to late October
with the main peak in July/August
and a secondary peak in May.

One long dry season of


about 6 months, October
to March. Driest months
December to February.

Average of 1340 mm, STD 155


mm. Moderate variability, from ~
1200 over northwestern and
western parts to ~ 1500 mm over
the southern parts.
Average of 1371 mm, STD 185
mm. Moderate variability, from ~
1200 over the eastern parts and
highest ~ 1500 mm over the
western parts.
Average of 1259 mm, STD 195
mm. High variability, from ~ 800
within the Lake Albert basin to ~
1500 mm over the western parts

One rainy season, about 7


months, April to about mid
November with the main peak in
August to mid October and a
secondary peak in April/May.
One rainy season of about 7
months, April to about mid
November with the main peak
August to October and a
secondary peak in April/May.
Mainly one rainy season of about
8 months, late March to late
November with the main peak
August to October and a
secondary peak in April/May.
Two rainy seasons, main season
August to November with peak in
October and secondary season
March to May with peak in April.
Two rainy seasons, main season
August to November with peak in
September to November and
secondary season March to May
with peak in April.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season September
to December with a modest peak
in November.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season August to
November with a modest peak in
October/November.

One long dry season of


about 4 months, midNovember to late March.
Driest months December
to February.
One long dry season of
about 4 months, late
November to late March.
Driest months December
to February.
One long dry season of
about 3 months,
December to about mid
March. Driest months
December to February.
Main dry season
December to about mid
March, secondary dry
season is June to July.
Main dry season
December to late March,
secondary dry season is
June to July.

ME

Average of 1270 mm, STD 135


mm. High variability, from ~ 800
over eastern L. Albert parts to ~
1400mm over the western parts.
Average of 1223 mm. High
variability, lowest ~ 800 mm
Kasese Rift Valley, highest over
slopes of Rwenzori mountains,
over 1500mm.
Average of 1021 mm.

Average of 1250 mm.

MW

Main dry seasons


Main rainy seasons

One long dry season of


about 4 months, midNovember to late March.
Driest months December
to February.

Main dry season June to


August, secondary dry
season is January to
February.
Main dry season
December to February,
secondary dry season is
June to July.

Source: (ACE, 2005)

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Table 5.2 Description of Climatological zones

Zone

Annual Rainfall and its


zonal variability

Main dry seasons


Main

rainy

seasons

CW

Average of 1120 mm.

CE

Average of 915 mm.

A1_W

Average of 1057 mm.

A1_E

Average of 1414 mm.

A2

Average of 1443 mm.

Average of 1316 mm.

Average of 1328 mm.

Average of 1215 mm.

Two rainy seasons, main season


September to December with peak
in October/November and
secondary season March to May
with a peak in April.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season September to
December with a peak in
October/November.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season October to
December with a peak in
November.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season October to
December with a peak in
November.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season October to
December with a peak in
November.
Two rainy seasons, main season
March to May with peak in April
and secondary season August to
November with a peak in
October/November.
Virtually one rainy season, March
to October, with the main peak in
April and a secondary peak in
August.
Virtually one rainy season, March
to November, with the main peak
in April/May and a secondary peak
in August/September.

Main dry season June


to August, secondary
dry season is January
and February.
Main dry season June
to August, secondary
dry season is January
and February.
Main dry season June
to September,
secondary dry season is
January and February.
Main dry season June
to August, secondary
dry season is January
and February.
Main dry season June
to August, secondary
dry season is January
and February.
Main dry season
December to February,
secondary dry season is
June and July.
One dry season
December to about mid
March.
One dry season
December to about mid
March.

Source: (ACE, 2005)

Table 5.2 and Table 5.3 show the different zones with the duration of the dry and wet
seasons

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5.5.2 Measurement of other forms of Precipitation


Snow and ice. Snow has the capacity to retain water and so acts as a form of storage. Its density and,
therefore the quantity of water contained, varies from as little as 0.005 microns for newly fallen snow to
as much as 0.6. in old, highly compressed snow. Since density varies with depth, samples must be taken
at various horizons in a snow pack before the water equivalent can be computed. This is usually done
with a sampling tube.
Snowfall may be measured directly by an ordinary rain gauge fitted with a heating system or by a simple
snow stake if there is no drifting and density is determined simultaneously.
Snow traverses are made as field surveys along lines across catchments, usually perpendicular to the
direction of flow, to determine snow thickness and densities at depth so that water equivalents can be
calculated for flood forecasts.
Fog. Estimates of amounts of moisture reaching the ground from fog formation have been made by
installing fog collectors over standard rain gauges. Collectors consist of wire gauge cylinders on which
moisture droplets form and run down into the rain gauge. Comparisons with standard rain-gauge records
at the same locality show differences that are a measure of fog precipitation. The interpretation of such
data requires experience and the use of conversion factors, but can make substantial differences (of the
order of 50 to 100 per cent) to precipitation in forest areas.
Dew. Dew collectors have been used in Sweden and Israel to measure dew fall. They are made as
conical steel funnels, plastic coated and with a projected plan area of about one square metre. Dew ponds
are used as a source of water in some countries. They are simply shallow depressions in the earth lined
with ceramic tiles.
Condensation. Although fog and dew are condensation effects, condensation also produces precipitation
from humid air flows over ice sheets and in temperate climates by condensation in the upper layers of
soil. Such precipitation does not occur in large amounts but may be sufficient to sustain plant life
(Wilson, 1990).
5.6
Climate in Uganda
Some of the main synoptic and mesoscale factors (Majugu, 2003) that influence weather and climate in
East Africa include in particular the following: a)
Monsoons
b)
The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)
c)
The meso-scale circulations
d)
Teleconnections related to the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomena.
Consequently, the rainfall patterns of the East African region and Uganda in particular are complex, with
rainfall amounts changing markedly over short distances. Details of the main influencing atmospheric
meteorological systems are as follows:
5.6.1 The Main Influencing Factors
a) The Monsoons
The most fully developed phases of monsoons that affect East Africa are the North East (December to
February) and the South East monsoons (June to August). These phases correspond to the maximum
positions of the ITCZ to the South (Southern summer) and to the North (Northern summer). Unlike the
West African and the Asian, monsoons, the fully developed East African monsoons are associated with
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relatively little rainfall and coincide with the main dry periods within the bimodal areas. Both monsoon
currents are generally divergent in the low levels and flow parallel to the coast and thus they do not
advect much moisture inland. They are also relatively shallow, extending up to about 600 hectapascals
and are capped aloft by an easterly flow. The South East monsoon is cool and moist and the persistent
inversion near 600 hectapascals inhibits cloud development leading to extensive low-level cloud cover
especially over the east facing slopes of the rift valley mountain ranges.
b) The ITCZ
The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone is the main synoptic scale system that controls the intensity and
migration of the seasonal rainfall over the East African region. The ITCZ is a narrow zone into which the
low-level equator-ward-moving air masses from both hemispheres converge. It is closely linked to the
position of the overhead sun, due to the heating of the overhead sun a wide belt of low level pressure
develops and the subsequent tendency of the air zone of convergence forming behind the overhead sun.
The characteristics of the ITCZ over East Africa are rather complex; it consists of a North South
dynamic arm, which is locally referred to as the meridional arm and the East West arm called the zonal
arm. The meridional arm is a zone of convergence between the westerlies from the Atlantic Ocean and the
easterlies from the Indian Ocean, while the zonal arm is the convergence between the North East and
south East monsoons/trades.
c) Meso Scale Circulations
Due to the proximity of East Africa to the Indian Ocean, the highly variable topography and the existence
of the large Lake Victoria basin the region experiences vigorous Meso-scale circulations. In fact the
spatial distribution of weather in East Africa is to a large extent determined by the interaction between the
quasi-stationary Meso-scale circulations and the seasonally varying large-scale monsoon/trade flows.
Further the region experiences marked diurnal variation of precipitation due to the vigorous Meso-scale
circulations as they contribute substantially to the distribution and intensity of rainfall over the region.
The Lake Victoria influence is due to its large body of water, the temperature contrasts between the Lake
and land during the day and night result in a Lake breeze being advected towards the land during the day
and a land breeze towards the Lake during the night. Overall, this land - lake breeze phenomenon results
in the lake basin region getting some rains almost throughout the year. This rainfall is however
significantly enhanced during the main rainy seasons.
d) Teleconnections (El Nino / Southern Oscillation ENSO)
The El Nino / southern oscillation (ENSO) is the principal mode of inter annual variability in the global
tropics. To a first approximation, the ENSO can be viewed as a modulation of the global monsoon / trade
wind system. This modulation is manifested in the modification and displacement of large-scale
precipitation patterns and includes episodes of both floods and drought. The modification may occur at
various phases of the ENSO evolution but is normally most pronounced and most extensive during the
opposite extremes of the ENSO cycle, that is, during the El Nino and La Nina phases. Some of the
countries / regions of the world where significant impacts of ENSO are felt include India, Northern
Australia, Equatorial Central Pacific, Eastern Equatorial Africa (including Uganda in particular), South
Eastern and South America and Gulf coast of the United States.
The 16 climatological zones can be regrouped (MWE, 2005) into five major zones described below;
5.6.2 Zone I: Lake Victoria Basin
This is a strip of 30 to 50 miles wide (48-80km) wide extending around the shores of Lake Victoria and
consists of Zones A1 and A2. The climate of this zone is dominated by the wide diurnal variation of
temperature and the resulting convective activities between the lake and the surrounding in land areas.
The inland extent is determined by the extent of the inland penetration of the on-shore breeze, during the
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day. Thus the rainfall over the surrounding inland areas is mainly during the afternoon to late evening
while over the lake and surrounding shores it is mainly during late night to early morning due to the night
time breezes.
The climate of the Lake Victoria basin displays comparatively small seasonal variations of temperature,
humidity and wind throughout the year. However, the rainfall seasons are quite marked with the main
season, March to May, contributing about 40% of the annual rainfall amount while the secondary season
October to December contributes about 30%. That means that the dry season of January to February and
the main one of June to September contribute about 30%. However the dry seasons are frequently broken
by thunderstorms and there are often wide season to inter-annual variability especially as related to the ElNino/Lanina events. Furthermore rainfall amounts vary quite significantly across, from East to West and
from South to the North.
5.6.3 Zone II: Buganda Busoga Ankole (Central and Western)
This zone includes the western parts of Busoga, Buganda and all except the western most parts of Ankole
and includes ME, B, CE and CW. It is a hilly region with tops in the order of 5000ft, which are mostly
flat-topped in the Northern parts giving way to the rounded hills of Ankole in the South. There are
considerable extensions of swamps at an altitude of about 3,800ft but away from the swamps Savanna
vegetation predominates.
The rainfall, which is mainly convectional and mainly an afternoon to evening occurrence averages about
40 inches. Two peaks associated with the Equatorial Trough are evident, one during April to May and the
other one September to November. Two dry seasons occur, a pronounced one in June to July and the
other one between December and February.
This zone also exhibits high a degree of seasonal to inter-annual variability especially as related to the ElNino/Southern Oscillation phenomenon. During a typical El-Nino event rainfall tends to be highly
amplified during the second rain season of September/October to December/January. On the other hand
during a typical La Nina event, the opposite of El-Nino, rainfall tends to be highly suppressed during the
same period of September/October to December/January. Furthermore the El-Nino heavy rains are
usually preceded by highly suppressed rains between July to September, while the poor La Nina rains are
preceded by highly amplified rains from July to September.
5.6.4 Zone III: Western Uganda
This relatively narrow zone covers Zones L,K,J and MW and traverses the Western boundary of the
country embracing the high grounds of West Nile, the escarpments on the Eastern side of Lake Albert,
Tooro, the high grounds of the Southwest and the rift valley lakes, Albert, George and Edward. It also
includes the chain of large forests, Zoka, Budongo, Bugoma, Itwara, Kibale, Kalinzu and Maramagambo.
Furthermore, Western Uganda is marked by high variability in altitude, from the rift valley Lake Albert at
2,030ft to the West Nile open grasslands at 4,000 to 5000ft to the Tooro dominating Rwenzori mountains
reaching up 16,000ft.
Lake Albert at 2,030ft is virtually the lowest and hottest region of Uganda. In addition, Lakes Edward
and George at just under 3000ft are very little different from Albert climatically. All the three are hot,
with intense dry seasons and rainfall of the order of 35 to 40 inches.
The Western zone in general might fairly be described as a transition zone between the Congo Basin
forest climate and the Uganda Savanna climates. The incursion of the Congo basin westerlies into the
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zone produces masses of cumulonimbus and thunderstorms except over the lake areas. These conditions
can persist for 7 10 days at a time.
Rainfall is by no means an entirely afternoon phenomenon, but might occur at any time of the day.
However, the rainfall season over the North western region is from July to September while over the
South western it is from September to December. Furthermore the main dry season over the North
western is December to February while over the South western it is June to August.
The Eastern borders of the Western zone are not nearly so readily definable as the inland borders of the
Lake Victoria Basin zone. There is more of a gradual transition from the Western zone into the AcholiKyoga and Ankole-Buganda zones. This is particularly the case in the North where the rainfall from
August to November is virtually the same in the West Nile, the Albert Nile and the Acholi region.
5.6.5 Zone IV: Acholi Kyoga
This zone embraces the greater part of Northern and Eastern Uganda and consists of Zones I, E, F and D.
It is largely flat, at an altitude of 3,000 to 4,000ft with few pronounced hills. A large proportion of its
surface is represented by the Lake Kyoga Catchment, which is characterized by considerable areas of
papyrus swamps. Northwards of the large swamps the vegetation is typically savanna.
The rainy season to the North is unimodal, April to October and to the South bimodal with the main
season being March to May and a secondary rainy season during September/October to December. The
Lake Kyoga area is a transition between the strongly unimodal pattern to the North and a strongly
bimodal pattern to the South. Accordingly the dry season to the North is December to February/March
while to the South there are two dry seasons, December to February and July to August. The variations in
the rainfall patterns over this region are as a result of latitudinal variations and are particularly amplified
by the impacts of the El-Nino/La Nina events. The Unimodal pattern to the North can be modified to
virtually bimodal patterns during a typical El-Nino event while the bimodal patterns to the South can be
modified to virtually unimodal patterns during a typical La Nina event. Thus the zone as a whole quite
often undergoes wide season to inter-annual variations.
5.6.6 Zone V: Karamoja
The Karamoja zone is a flat plain at an altitude of between 3500 to 4000ft with a number of isolated peaks
rising to between 8000 to 9000ft and covers Zones H and G. This zone experiences an intense dry and
hot season from November to March when most of the streams dry up. December and January are the
driest months. The region experiences mainly one rainy season April to August/September with the main
peak during July/August and a secondary peak during May. The annual rainfall is generally between 20
to 40 inches being generally wetter over the Southern areas and over the Western areas.
The Hills of Karamoja do have a fairly important influence on the rainfall patterns in the area. During the
South-Eastern monsoon, at times when it is blowing strongly, it is noticeable that large Cumulus and
Cumulonimbus clouds build up on the hills early in the day. The lee sides of the hills experiences
relatively heavy rainfall as the clouds move towards the North-West under the influence of the wind drift.

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Fig 5.7 The main climatic zones of Uganda

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5.6.7 Rainfall Trends


The average rainfall (NEMA, 1999) in Uganda varies from 700mm in the semi arid areas of North East
(Kotido) to 1500 mm on the Islands of Kalangala District in Lake Victoria and over 2000mm on the
slopes of Mt Rwenzori. The average of 28 stations countrywide is 1217mm. In general it exhibits
bimodal characteristics and this is linked to the double passage of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone
(ITCZ), which gives rise to two rainy seasons in about March-May and October-December. The spatial
distribution is influenced by Lake Victoria as well as local topography. The atmospheric circulation over
Lake Victoria is approximately from east to west, but is strongly influenced by onshore and offshore
breezes generated by the lake itself. This local circulation frequently results in the formation of
cumulonimbus clouds over the southwestern portion of the lake and in a narrow strip of land some 30 km
wide around the shore (Sutcliffe and Parks, 1999). Rainfall analysis (NEMA, 2002) over the years 194399 indicate all regions experience wide seasonal to inter annual rainfall variations. Regionally incidences
of drought conditions are more frequent in the Northern and Eastern regions than Central and Western
regions. Alternating deficits and rainfall have led to droughts (and sometimes crop failure) and floods
respectively. The recent El Nino rainfall is the heaviest on record, with annual rainfall between 600 2500mm. Further analysis of rainfall from 33 sites (Phillips and McIntyre, 2000) show that when the data
is separated between unimodal and bimodal zones reveals the importance of ENSO is different in the two
zones. El Nino events are associated with a depression of the August peak in rainfall, but a lengthening
season, potentially providing an opportunity for growing later maturing crops. At bimodal sites there is
very little impact in August, but November rainfall is enhanced in El Nino years and depressed in La Nina
years. Given a forecast of ENSO, the primary strategies that will be useful in farm management will differ
by rainfall zone and will evolve around the choice of crop or cultivar and the planting in order to make
optimal use of the growing period. This is good potential for rainwater harvesting.
The impact of Lake Victoria has been illustrated by measurements of rainfall near its centre, which
indicated rainfall some 30% higher than observed at any lakeshore station (Sutcliffe and Parks, 1999). A
recent estimate (Mangeni and Katashaya, 2006) of the Lake Victoria rainfall using data from the islands
and lake shore data and applying the Simple Exponential Kriging technique gave a value of 1815mm. The
mean annual rainfall map for Uganda shown in Fig 5.7 displays regions of relatively low rainfall (400
to1000 mm) and high rainfall (1400mm and above). The relatively low rainfall areas are dominated by the
so-called cattle corridor axis running the Karamoja region to the northeast to the Ankole region to the
Southwest. The other rather elongated area of low rainfall is along the Western Rift Valley running
through Lake Albert. On the other hand the main area of relatively high rainfall is over the central and
western parts of the Lake Victoria Basin and over Mt Elgon in the east.
5.6.8 Seasonal Rainfall Percentage Patterns
The 3-monthly seasonal rainfall maps (Fig 5.8) display the spatial and temporal seasonal migration of the
dry and wet seasons across the country and within the year. The season December to February is the
driest period over most parts of the country and especially over the northern (5 - 10%) and parts of central
region (10 15%). It is only the south-western region that receives moderate rains (20 25%). It should
be noted that during the season December to February the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is
over southern Africa and most of Uganda is dominated by the hot and dry north-to-northern easterly flow.
On the other hand the season March to May is the main wet season over the most parts of Uganda with
the percentage levels highest over the south-eastern areas (40 45%) and lowest over the north-western
areas (20 25%). During this period the zonal arm of the ITCZ is within the equatorial areas and the
country is dominated by the moist south-easterly flow.
During the season June to August the main wet season is now centred over the northern parts of the
country, while the southern parts experience their secondary dry season. Over the northern region the
highest percentages (40 45%) are recorded over the north-eastern parts of Karamoja, while over the
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HWRE 2010 AR
southern regions the lowest percentages (5 15%) are reported over the south-western parts of the
country. During the season June to August the main zonal arm of the ITCZ is within the vicinity of the
northern region. Finally, the season September to November is the secondary rainy season over most
parts of the Western and Central parts of the country with the main wet season centred over the western
parts of the country and extending into the central areas (30 40%) while the areas with lowest
percentages (15 20%) are recorded over the north-eastern parts of Karamoja. During the season
September to November the main dominant synoptic feature is the meridional arm of the ITCZ, which is
normally within the vicinity of the western parts of the country super-imposed the zonal, arm which is
within the vicinity of the equatorial areas (Majugu, 2003).
Based on the analysis for different periods using annual and seasonal datasets of 20 stations in the Lake
Victoria Basin, it was noted that positive trends were dominant with an average increase of 2-4 mm per
year in the twentieth century. It was further observed that there were more positive trends in the short
rainy season (October December) than the long rainy season (March May). The similarities between
trend and step changes results suggest that when changes in the basin occur, they are not entirely
monotonic but stepwise with sequences of dry years separated by wet years (Kizza, 2008)

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Fig. 3.1 Uganda's Mean Annual Rainfall (mm)

40

30

20

10

00

-1 0

0
30

0
31

0
32

0
33

0
34

0
35

Scale 1:4,500,000
100

100

200 Kilometers

Legend

400- 600

600 - 800

800- 1000

1000 - 1200

1200- 1400

1400- 1600

1600 - 1800

1800 - 2000

2000 - 2200

Prepared by the GIS UNIT Water Resources Management Department Entebbe, DWD and Department of Meteorology Kampala
(c)2002

Fig 5.8 Uganda Mean Annual Rainfall


Source: Water Resources Management and Department of Meteorology Uganda, 2002

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Fig. 3.3 December - February Season as % of Annual Rainfall


Fig.3.4 March - May Season as % of Annual Rainfall
40

40

30
N

30

20

20

10

10

00

00

-1 0

30

0
31

0
32

0
33

0
34

0
35
-1 0

Scale :4,500,000
100

100

200 Kilometers
300

310

320

Legend
5 - 10

330

340

350

Scale 1:4,500,000

10 - 15

15 - 20

100

20 - 25

100

200 Kilometers

Legend
20 - 25

Prepared by the GIS UNIT Water Resources Management Department Entebbe, DW D and Department of Meteorology Kampala

35 - 40

30 - 35

25 - 30

40 - 45

Prepared by the GIS UNIT Water Resources Management Department Entebbe, DWD and Department of Meteorology Kampala

Fig. 3.6 September-November Season as % of Annual Rainfall

Fig. 3.5 June- August Season as % of Annual Rainfall

40

40

30

30

20

20

10

10

00

00

-1 0

-1 0
30

0
30

0
31

32

0
33

0
34

0
31

0
35

0
32

0
33

0
34

0
35

Scale 1:4,500,000
100

100

200 Kilometers

Scale 1:4,500,000
100

100

200 Kilometers

Legend
15 - 20

Legend
5 - 10

10 - 15

15 - 20

20 - 25

25 - 30

30 - 35

35 - 40

40 - 45

20 - 25

25 - 30

30 - 35

35 - 40

Prepared by the GIS UNIT Water Resources Management Department Entebbe, DW D and Department of Meteorology Kampala

Prepared by the GIS UNIT Water Resources Management Department Entebbe, DWD and Department of Meteorology Kampala

Fig 5.9 Three (3) monthly seasonal rainfall maps

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5.7

Precipitation Analysis

5.7.1 Estimation of Missing Rainfall Data


Before analyzing the rainfall data of a region, it is necessary to check its continuity. The data would be
discontinuous when a particular rain gauge is not operative for some period of the record. In such a case,
it becomes necessary to supplement the missing data by an intelligent estimation. The missing data is
usually estimated from the available data of the neighbouring rain gauge stations called index stations.
For estimation of the missing data, the normal annual rainfalls of all the rain gauge station, including the
station with the missing data, are required. The normal annual rainfall of a station is the average value of
the annual rainfall over a specified period of 30 years or so. The normal rainfall is updated every ten
years. There are two main methods (Subramanya, 2001):
i)
ii)
i)

The Comparison method and


The Normal ratio method

Comparison method: If the rainfall record of a rain gauge station (say, X) is missing for a relatively
long period, such as a month or a year, it can be estimated by comparing the mean annual rainfall of
the station X with that of an adjoining station A. Thus

Px
N
x
PA N A

(5.6)

Where:
Px and PA are the precipitations of the stations X and A for the missing period and Nx and
NA are the mean annual rainfalls of the stations X and A.
ii) Normal ratio Method: When there is a short break in the precipitation data of a rainguage station, it
can be estimated from the observed data of three adjoining index stations A, B and C which are evenly
distributed around the stations X.
The following two cases are dealt with separately.
a)

When the mean annual rainfall at each of the index stations A, B, and C, is within 10% of the
mean rainfall of station X, a simple average of the values of the index station is taken. Thus:

Px
b)

1
PA PB PC
3

(5.7)

When the mean annual rainfall at each of the index stations differs from the station X by more
than 10% the normal ratio method is used. Thus:

Px

Nx
3

PA
P
P

B C
N A NB NC

(5.8)
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Where the symbol N is used for the mean annual rainfall (also called average annual precipitation) and the
symbol P is used for the precipitation. When there are M Index stations,

Px

Nx
M

PA
P
P
B ... M

NM
N A NB

(5.9)

Another method used is the Isohyetal map method, which is useful for estimating missing data of a station
X due to a particular storm. Other methods used for infilling and extending data series are Markov and
random generation time series techniques.
5.7.2 Tests for Consistency
From several years records it may seem that annual rainfall is, say, declining. It is important to know
that this trend is independent of the gauging, and is due to meteorological conditions only. This may be
checked by plotting a double mass curve as shown in the figure.
This technique is based on the principle that when each recorded data comes from the same parent
population, they are consistent. A group of 5 to 10 base stations in the neighborhood of the problem
station X is selected. The data of the annual rainfall of the station X and also the average rainfall of the
group of base stations covering a long period is arranged in the reverse chronological order. The
accumulated precipitation of the station X (i.e Px) and the accumulated values of the average of the
group of base stations (i.e. Pav) are calculated starting from the latest record. Values of Px are plotted
against Pav for carious consecutive time periods in the figure). A decided break in the slope of the
resulting plot indicates a change in the precipitation regime of station X. The precipitation values at
station X beyond the period of change of regime the year 1958 in Fig 5.13 is corrected by using the
relation.

Pcx Px

Mc
Ma

(5.10)

where:
Pcx = corrected precipitation at any time period t1 at station X
Px = original recorded precipitation at time period t1 at station X
Mc = corrected slope of the double-mass curve
Ma = original slope of the mass curve
In this way the older records are brought up to the new regime of the station. It is apparent that the more
homogeneous the base station records are, the more accurate will be the corrected values at station X. A
change in slope is normally taken as significant only where it persists for more than five years. The
double-mass curve is also helpful in checking arithmetical errors in transferring rainfall data from one
record to another.
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A sudden divergence from the straight-line correlation, shown by the dashed line in the figures, indicates
that a change has occurred in gauging and that the meteorology of the region is probably not the cause of
the decline. Such a change might be due to the erection of a building or fence near the gauge, which
changes the wind pattern round the gauge, the planting of trees, the replacement of one measuring vessel
by another, even the changing of an observer who uses different procedures, the change in the ecosystem
due to calamities such as forest, fires or landslides or an observational error from a particular date.
A considerable amount of work is being focused towards eliminating homogeneities within the national
data set. This is particularly necessary for modeling meteorological trends associated with climate change.
Under the Hydroclimatic Study (MWLE, 2003), the detection of errors and inhomogeneities was
undertaken using metadata and quality control measures through an interdisciplinary study between the
Uganda Meteorological Department and the Directorate of Water Resources Management. A total of 597
rainfall and 30 temperature stations were digitized using CLICOM software, which generated 16,363 and
1500 records of rainfall and temperature respectively that spanned the years 1902 to 2003. Different types
of errors and their relationships were identified. Checking logics was applied by both manual methods
and computer programmes, which varied according to the type of data, whether daily, monthly, annual or
suspicious zeros. Suspicious results were compared to their neighbouring stations and available metadata
was checked to prove worthiness of record. As a result, inconsistent records and extreme rainfall events
were identified and inhomogeneities were discovered in Mbarara, Buvuma and within farming estates
stations where management changed abruptly (Lubega, 2008).

5.7.3 Presentation of Rainfall Data


Definitions. The total annual amount of rain falling at a point is the usual basic precipitation figure
available. For many purposes, however, this is not adequate and information may be required under any
or all of the following headings.
i)
ii)
iii)
iv)

Intensity. This is a measure of the quantity of rain falling in a given time; for example, mm per
hour.
Duration. This is the period of time during which rain falls.
Frequency. This refers to the expectation that a given depth of rainfall will fall in a given time.
Such an amount may be equaled or exceeded in a given number of days or years.
Areal extent. This concerns the area over which a points rainfall can be held to apply.

The worlds highest recorded intensities are of the order of 40 mm (or 1 in) in a minute, 200 mm (or 8
in) in 20 minutes and 26 m (or 1000 in.) in a year.
A few commonly used methods of presentation of rainfall data which have been found to be useful in
interpretation and analysis of such data are given below:

i)
Mass Curve of Rainfall
The mass curve of rainfall is a plot of the accumulated precipitation against time, plotted in chronological
order. Records of float type and weighing bucket type gauges are of this form. A typical mass curve of
rainfall at a station during a storm is shown in Fig.5.10a. Mass curves of rainfall are very useful in
extracting the information on the duration and magnitude of a storm. Also, intensities at various time
intervals in a storm can be obtained by the slope of the curve. For non-recording rain gauges, mass
curves are prepared from arknowledge of the approximate beginning and end of a storm and by using the
mass curves of adjacent recording gauge stations as a guide.
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ii)
Hyetograph
A hyetograph is a plot of the intensity of rainfall against the time interval. The hyetograph is derived
from the mass curve and is usually represented as a bar chart as shown in Fig 5.10b. It is a very
convenient way of representing the characteristics of a storm and is particularly important in the
development of design storms to predict extreme floods. The area under a hyetograph represents the total
precipitation received in the period. The time interval used depends on the purpose; in urban-drainage
problems small durations are used while in flood-flow computations in larger catchments the intervals are
of about 6h.
iii) Areal Extent
Three main ways are considered:
a)
b)
c)

Arithmetical Mean
Thiessen Polygons
Isohyetal

a) Arithmetical Mean: In the assessment of total quantities of rainfall over large areas, the incidence of
particular storms and their contribution to particular gauges is unknown, and it is necessary to convert
many point values to give an average rainfall depth over a certain area. The simplest way of doing
this is to take the arithmetical mean of the amounts known for all points in the area. If the
distribution of such points over the area is uniform and the variations in the individual gauges
amounts are not large, then this method gives reasonably good results.
If P1, then P2,. Pi PN are rainfall values in a given catchment with N stations then:

b)

P1 P2 ... Pi ... PN
1

N
N

(5.11)

i 1

Another method, due to Thiessen, defines the zone of influence of each station by drawing lines
between pairs of gauges, bisecting the lines will perpendiculars, and assuming all the area
enclosed within the boundary formed by these intersecting perpendiculars has had rainfall of the
same amount as the enclosed gauge.

The areas of any six Thiessen polygons are determined either with a planimeter or by using an overlay
grid. If P1, P2 .. P6 are the rainfall magnitudes recorded by the stations 1, 2 6,
respectively, and A1, A2, A6 are the respective areas of the Thiessen polygons, then the average
rainfall over the catchment P is given by:

P1 A1 P2 A2 ... P6 A6
A1 A2 ... A6

(5.12)

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HWRE 2010 AR
Thus in general for M stations,

PA
i

i 1

Pi
i 1

Ai
A

(5.13)

The ratio Ai/A is called the weightage factor for each station. The Thiessen - polygon method of
calculating the average precipitation over an area is superior to the arithmetic - average method as some
weightage is given to the various stations on a rational basis. Further, the raingauge stations outside the
catchment are also used effectively. Once the weightage factors are determined, the calculation of P is
relatively easy for a fixed network of stations.
A variation of this technique is to draw the perpendiculars to the line joining the gauges at points of
median altitude, instead of at mid length. This altitude-corrected analysis is sometimes held to be a more
logical approach but as a rule produces little difference in result. Either method is more accurate than that
of the simple arithmetic mean but involves much labour. Thiessen polygons are as shown in the Fig 5.11.
d)

A third method is to draw isohyets or contours of equal rainfall depth. The areas between
successive isohyets are measured and assigned an average value of rainfall. The overall
average for the area is thus derived from weighted averages. The average value of the rainfall
indicated by two isohyets is assumed to be acting over the inter-isohyet areas. Thus P1, P2,
., Pn are the values of isohyets and if a1, a2 .., an-1 are the inter-isohyet areas
respectively, the mean precipitation over the catchment of area A is given by:

P P2
P P3
P Pn
a1 1
..... a n 1 n 1

a2 2
2
2
2

P
A

(5.14)

The isohyetal method is superior to the other two methods especially when the stations are large in
number. This method is possibly the best of the three and has the advantage that the isohyets may be
drawn to take account of local effects like prevailing wind and uneven topography. Fig 5.12 shows a map
of isohyets over a study catchment area.
Example 5.1
.
A rain gauge recorded the following accumulated rainfall during the storm. Draw the mass rainfall curve
and the hyetograph.
Time (am)
Accumulated
Rainfall (mm)

9.00

9.05

9.10

9.15

9.20

9.25

9.30

11

15

16

28

HWRE 2010 AR

Solution
The mass rainfall curve is directly plotted from the given data [Fig. 5.10a].
For plotting the hyetograph, the rainfall intensity in the successive 5 minute intervals is
determined as follows:
Time interval
Increment of rainfall
(mm)
Average intensity
(mm/hr)

9:00 to 9:05

9:05 to 9:10

9:10 to 9:15

9:15 to 9:20

9:20 to 9:25

9:25 to 9:30

12
(=1/5 x 60)

12

36

72

48

12

Fig. 5.9b shows the rainfall hyetograph.

80

18

72
70
RAINFALL INTENSITY (mm/hr)

A C C U M U L A T E D R A IN F A L L (m m )

16
14
12
10
8
6
4

60
48

50
40

36

30
20
12

12

12

10

0
0

10

15

20

TIME

Fig 5.10(a) Rainfall Mass Curve

25

30

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

T IM E

(b) Rainfall Hyetograph

Example 5.2
A watershed has ten rain gauge stations with their recorded average annual precipitation in centimetres as
shown in the map Fig 5.10.

29

HWRE 2010 AR

Fig 5.11 A Watershed

a) Calculate the average precipitation of the total watershed using:


i)
the Arithmetic mean method
ii)
the Thiessen polygon method
iii)
the Isohyetal method
Solution
a)
i) Using the Equation 5.11
Mean Precipitation, P =

Therefore P =

1 n
Pn , where n is number of rain gauge stations
n n 1

85 81 75 69 72 64
6

P = 74.33 cm

ii) Using Equation 5.13


n

Mean Precipitation, P

n 1

Pn An
An

, where n = number of rain gauge stations, A is the area of the

Thiessen Polygon surrounding each station and P is the average precipitation at each station. These are
calculated and shown in Table 5.4.

30

HWRE 2010 AR

90

81
85

75

79

72

69

70
64

71

Fig 5.12 Thiessen Polygons over the Area

Table 5.3 Thiessen Polygon Estimates

Precipitation P

Area
A

P*A

85

195

16575

75

145

10875

81

206

16686

90

180

72

116

8352

70

280

64
69
71
79

94
181
26
38
1007

6016
12489
1846
3002
76301

Therefore P = 76301 = 75.77 cm


1007

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HWRE 2010 AR
iii) Using Equation 5.14

P P2
P P3
P Pn
A1 1
A2 2
..... An1 n 1

2
2
2

Mean Precipitation, P
,
n
An
n 1

where n = number of rain gauge stations, A is the area of the Thiessen polygon surrounding each station
and P is the average precipitation at each station. The estimates are then calculated according to Table 5.5.
90

81
85

85
80

75

72

79

75

69
70

71

70

64
65

Fig 5.13 A Map showing the Isohyets

Table 5.4 The Isohyet Estimates


Isohyets
65
65-70
70-75
75- 80
80-85
85-90

Average Pa

Area A

Pa * A

65.0
67.5
72.5
77.5
82.5
87.5

20
237
249
212
186
163
1067

1300
15997.5
18052.5
16430
15345
14262.5
81387.5

Therefore P = 81387.5 = 76.28 cm


1067

32

HWRE 2010 AR

Example 5.3
The annual rainfall at station X and the average annual rainfall at 18 surrounding stations are given in
Table 5.6. Check the consistency of the record at station X and determine the year in which a change in
regime has occurred. State how you are going to adjust the records for the change in regime. Determine
the Average Annual Rainfall (AAR) for the period 1952-1970 for the changed regime.

Table 5.5: Annual Rainfalls

Table 5.6: Cumulative Totals

Annual rainfall (cm)

Year
1952
1953
1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970

Stn X
30.5
38.9
43.7
32.2
27.4
32
49.3
28.4
24.6
21.8
28.2
17.3
22.3
28.4
24.1
26.9
20.6
29.5
28.4

18-Stn Avg
22.8
35
30.2
27.4
25.2
28.2
36.1
18.4
25.1
23.6
33.3
23.4
36
31.2
23.1
23.4
23.1
33.2
26.4

Year
1952
1953
1954
1955
1956
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970

Cumulative
Annual
rainfall (cm)
18Stn.X
Stn.Average
30.5
22.8
69.4
57.8
113.1
88
145.3
115.4
172.7
140.6
204.7
168.8
254
204.9
282.4
233.3
307
258.4
328.8
282
357
315.3
374.3
338.7
396.6
374.7
425
405.9
449.1
429
476
452.4
496.6
475.5
526.1
508.7
554.5
525.1

The cumulative rainfalls in Table 5.7 are plotted as shown in the Fig 5.14. It can be seen from the figure
that there is a distinct change in slope in the year 1958, which indicates that a change in regime
(exposure) has occurred in the year 1958. To make the records prior to 1958 comparable with those after
change in regime has occurred, the earlier records have to be adjusted by multiplying by the ratio of
slopes m2/m1 i.e., 0.9/1.24.

33

HWRE 2010 AR

Cumulative annual rainfall of station X


(cm)

Double M ass C urve Analysis


600
500
S lope, m1 = 1.24
S lope, m2 = 0.9

400
300
200

C hange in
regime in 1958

100
0
0

100

200

300

400

500

600

C umulative annual - 18 stations average (cm)

Fig 5.14 Double Mass Curve


Cumulative rainfall 1958-1970
=554.5-204.7
Cumulative rainfall 1952-1957
Adjusted for changed environment
=204.7 x 0.9
1.24
Cumulative rainfall 1952-1970
(for the current environment)
AAR adjusted for the current regime
= 497.4cm
19 years

= 349.8 cm

= 148.6 cm

= 497.4 cm

= 26.2 cm

iv) Depth Area Duration Curves


The depth-duration frequency curves are similar to the intensity duration curves with one basic difference
that the ordinate represents the total depth of the rainfall instead of the intensity of rainfall. Depth area
duration curves show accumulated average precipitation on the ordinate scale against the area at selected
times during a storm period on the abscissa. This is as shown in Fig 5.15.
Depth Area Relationship. A storm over a particular catchment does not produce uniform rainfall depth
over the entire catchment. Each storm usually has its centre called the eye where the precipitation is
34

HWRE 2010 AR
maximum. As the distance of a point from the eye increases, the precipitation decreases.It can be seen
that the average depth of rainfall for the given storm decreases with the increase in area and for a given
area, the average depth of rainfall increases, with the increase in duration. In the same manner, maximum
depth area duration curves may be prepared. Such curves are needed for estimation of the severest floods.
The preparation of Depth Area Duration Curves requires considerable effort and the procedure is as
explained below in the following steps (Duggal and Soni 2007):
i.
ii.
iii.

iv.
v.
vi.
vii.
viii.
ix.
x.

Decide on the duration of storm for which DAD curves are to be plotted.
Select the storms representative of the region. In the case of maximum area duration curves select
the maximum storms that have occurred in the region.
Prepare the mass curves for the recording stations. Here, hourly amounts of rainfall are
accumulated and plotted against time to get mass curves. The time distribution at non recording
gauging stations is developed with the help of a base recording station associated with it.
Prepare the isohyets with the knowledge of point precipitation (total) at the various recording and
non recording gauges in the drainage basin.
Find out the area enclosed by the isohyets. In case the same isohyets encloses separate areas, total
up the two areas.
Find out the difference of areas of adjoining isohyets.
Find out the average rainfall depth, which is the mean of the isohyets values of two adjoining
isohyets.
Compute the product of values in step vi and vii. This will give volume of rain between one set of
isohyets. Then work the accumulated volumes.
Divide each accumulated value obtained in step viii by the corresponding area in step (v) to
obtain the average depth of rainfall.
Plot average depth of rainfall (values obtained in step ix) against the area enclosed by each set of
isohyets (values obtained in step v). This will yield a depth area curve for the selected duration.

Isopluvial maps: Isopluvial maps show the extreme values of total rainfall depth for storms of different
duration.
World's greatest recorded rainfall: If the total rainfall depth is plotted against duration on a log-log
paper, the world's greatest recorded rainfalls lie on or just under a straight line whose equation is
Pm = 42.16 (t)0.475

(5.15)

Where Pm is the extreme rainfall depth (cm) and t is the duration of rainfall (hours)

Example 5.4
The storm of a duration of 12 hours occurred over a catchment as shown inTable 5.8. If the areas enclosed
by different isohyets are as follows, plot the depth area-duration-curve for 12 hour duration.

Table 5.7 Storm Records


Isohyets (mm)
2

Enclosed area (km )

21
543

20
1345

19
2030

18
2545

17
2955

16
3280

15
3535

14
3710

13
3880

12
3915

35

HWRE 2010 AR

Solution
The average maximum rainfall depth is calculated for different areas in Table 5.9:
Table 5.8: Determining average rainfall depths
Isohyets
(mm)

Area enclosed
(km2)

Net area
between
isohyets

Average
rainfall
(mm)

Volume of
rainfall
(mm.km2)

Cumulative
volume
(mm.km2)

(1)
21
20

(2)
543
1345

(3)
543
802

(4)
21.5 (say)
20.5

(5)
11674.5
16441.0

(6)
11674.5
28115.5

Average
rainfall depth
(mm)
= 6
2
(7)
21.5
20.9

19

2030

685

19.5

13357.5

41473.0

20.4

18

2545

515

18.5

9527.5

51000.5

20.0

17

2955

410

17.5

7175.0

58175.5

19.7

16

3280

325

16.5

5362.5

63538.0

19.4

15

3535

255

15.5

3952.5

67490.5

19.1

14

3710

175

14.5

2537.5

70028.0

18.9

13

3880

170

13.5

2295.0

72323.0

18.6

12

3915

35

12.5

437.5

72760.5

18.6

= (3) x (4)

Fig 5.15 Equivalent uniform depths: The Depth Area Duration DAD Curve

36

HWRE 2010 AR

v) Intensity Duration Frequency Curves


It has been observed in practice that the greater the intensity of rainfall, the shorter its duration of the
rainfall. In other words, very intense storms occur for a short duration, and as the duration of a storm
increases, its intensity decreases. The intensity-duration curve can be obtained by plotting the rainfall
intensity against duration of the storm. The rainfall intensity is usually expressed in cm/hour and the
duration is in minutes. The curve is usually drawn on a natural graph paper. Sometimes, it is drawn on a
log-log plot. For plotting an intensity duration curve, the observed maximum rainfall intensities at a place
for storms of different duration are obtained from the available rainfall record. While selecting the storms
of different maximum intensity, the following points should be kept in mind (Kolsky, 1999).
1.

The severest storm of longer duration need not include the severest storm of shorter duration.

2.

Even for the same storm, the maximum rainfall intensity for 5 minute duration and that for 10
minute duration may not be successive. As the rainfall intensity (i) varies inversely with the
duration (t), the relation between the two can be expressed by Talbot's formula.

a
t b

(5.16)

where a and b are constants.


The Talbot formula is applicable for storms of duration 5 to 120 minutes. For storms of duration longer
than 2 hours, the Sherman formula is commonly used. According to this formula

t b n
(5.17)

where n is a constant
Sometimes the following alternative formula is used.

k
tn

(5.18)

where k is a constant
The value of the constants a, b, k and n for the given catchment are usually determined by plotting the
given data on a log-log plot. The plot is usually in the form of a straight line. For more accurate values,
the theory of least squares is used. When several points are plotted together for different return periods,
they become Intensity Duration Frequency Curves and are useful in sewer and drainage design.

a)
Recent Studies
Intensity Duration and Frequency (IDF) curves have been found to be very helpful in the estimation of
design flows for the design of hydraulic structures like culverts and sewers. IDF curves show the intensity
of rainfall for a given duration and expected frequency. From the curves, intensities of given duration at
required return periods are obtained and used in estimating peak flows (Watkins and Fiddes, 1984). In a
37

HWRE 2010 AR
study on the development of IDF Curves in Uganda, the following procedure was adopted (Rugumayo, et
al 2002).
b)
(i)

Watkins and Fiddes


Rainfall data for the selected urban centres can be obtained from the Meteorology Department.
The collection of data involved extraction of rainfall depths together with duration of occurrence.
The maximum rainfall depth in every month was considered from which the maximum in every
year was selected. Rainfall depths, with duration between 15 and 210 minutes were selected.

(ii)

For each town, daily maximum rainfall values together with the duration for the available period,
were read from the cards and ranked from 1 to N (the number of years of record) in a decreasing
order.

(iii)

The corresponding return period was estimated for each data set, using Weibulls plotting
position formula

N 1
M

(5.19)

where M is the event rank number (1, 2, , N).


(iv)

The maximum rainfall depths were plotted against return periods on a semi-log paper and a line
of best fit plotted through the points.

(v)

The correlation coefficient between the maximum daily rainfall and log of return period was
determined.

(vi)

From the graphs, maximum rainfall depths at desired return periods were read off from the
graphs.

(vii)

The desired sequence of duration (e.g. 10, 15, 30 minutes) was chosen for each data set and used
to calculate the rainfall intensity using the basic mathematical form of the intensity-durationfrequency curve represented by the rectangular hyperbola as Equation 5.17 below:

t b n

where I is the intensity (mm/hr), t the duration (hours) and a, b, n are coefficients/constants
developed for each IDF curve.
(viii)

The intensities were plotted against duration for each desired return period to give the IDF curves.

The following procedure was adopted for the determination of coefficients a, b and n in the formulae
used.
a) A value of b from other studies in the region; (for East Africa, b = 1/3) was applied.

38

HWRE 2010 AR
b) The effective duration of storms in the area, teff was estimated. This is the length of time over
which 60% of the days rainfall occurs. This can be done by either judgement, discussion with
local experts or a review of local storm data. The latter option was used in this study.
c) The value of n from the original Watkins and Fiddes equation was calculated:

14 . 4

In
t

eff
n
b 24

In
b t

eff

(5.20)

d) From the graphs plotted in (iv) the maximum daily rainfall for a particular return period RT24 can
be determined. This is divided by 24 to determine the daily rainfall intensity for a particular
return period iT24:

T
24

T
R 24

24

(5.21)

e) The value of aT for each return period was calculated using the formula:
n

T
a T i 24
x b 24

(5.22)

The value of aT and other constants b and n were applied in equation (5.17) to determine the intensity in
mm/hr for a particular duration and return period.

c)
Bells Method
Bells method computes the intensity as a function of duration and the hourly precipitation for any given
return period by the relation:

itT

0.54t

0.24

0.50 P60T
t

(5.23)

where iTt = the rainfall intensity (in mm/hour) of return period T and duration t minutes and PT60 is the 60
minute of return period T. It can be applied to storms of less than two hours duration where hourly totals
are available.
The following procedure was adopted.
a)

Based on the data available for each station the hourly intensities were calculated and were
ranked according to Weibull formula.
39

HWRE 2010 AR

b)

A semilog plot of return period verses hourly intensities in mm/hr was made.

c)

The correlation coefficient between the log of return period and the hourly intensities was
determined.

d)

The 60-minute intensities for given return periods were calculated from the graph.

e)

The intensities for other durations were applied to Bells formula to obtain a set of IDF Curves.

The study on data for different stations in Uganda observed that there is a good correlation between log of
return period and the daily maximum rainfall, which is easier to measure accurately, whereas a poor
correlation between the log of return period and hourly rainfall intensities on which, Bells method is
based. In the absence of data, only estimates of hourly rainfall can be made from daily rainfall.
Furthermore, the original Bells equation was based on North American catchments, which have less
thunderstorm days than tropical thunderstorms. The approach of Watkins and Fiddes method is based on
the determination of constants a, b and n in the basic equation describing IDF curves in which, intensity is
a function of duration at any given return period, T.

Example 5.5
Thus;
i tT

t b n

where itT is the intensity(in mm/hr) of t hours duration with a return period of T years. Watkins and
Fiddes suggest the following procedure for the determination of constants:
(i)
Start with a value of b from other studies in the region (b=1/3 for East Africa)
(ii)
Estimate the effective duration of the area, teff.
(iii)
Given teff compute the value of n from the original Watkins and Fiddes equation as
n I 14.4n t eff
Inb 24 b t eff

T
T
xb 24 where i24
(iv) Finally the value of a can be computed from the equation a T i24
is the rainfall
intensity (mm/hr) of duration 24 hours with return period T years. It can be estimated as
T
T
T
i 24
R24
24 where R 24
is the maximum 24-hour rainfall with a T-year return period.

Using the daily maximum rainfall and corresponding duration of Kabale develop the IDF curves for the
area.
Year
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1975
1976

Maximum Daily Rainfall


12.3
12.2
25.6
39.1
233
55.1
44.2
26.7
11.3

Duration (hours)
1.1
0.4
1.5
3.5
0.9
2.3
1.5
1.5
0.7
40

HWRE 2010 AR

Take b to be 1/3 and a review of local data shows that teff (60% of the day rainfall) for Kabale can be
taken as 1.5 hours. (Hint: First rank the maximum daily rainfall and determine the return period (or
frequency) T from T N 1 r where N is the number of years of record and I is the rank).
Solution
a) Calculation of the coefficient n:
B=1/3(value for East Africa)
teff= 1.5 hours
Therefore
b)
(i)

n In14.4 1.5 In1 3 24 1 3 1.5


Calculation of coefficient a
Calculate the return periods for Maximum daily rainfall

Maximum daily
rainfall (mm)
55.1
44.2
39.1
26.7
25.6
23.3
12.3
12.2
11.3

Year
1972
1973
1970
1975
1969
1971
1967
1968
1976

Rank r

2.3
1.5
3.5
1.5
1.5
0.9
1.1
0.4
0.7

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Return period
T N 1 r
10.0
5.0
3.3
2.5
2.0
1.7
1.4
1.3
1.1

Plot rainfall depths against return period

Daily Maximum rainfall Vs Return Period


140
Daily Maximum
Rainfall(mm)

(ii)

Duration (hours)

120
100
80
y = 4.9092x + 12.319

60
40
20
0
1

11

13

15

17

19

Return Period(hours)

Fig 5.16 Rainfall depth against return period


41

HWRE 2010 AR

(iii)
Read off from the line, at desired return periods depths (Max. 24 hour rainfall) and calculate
Max.24 hour intensity and the coefficient a:
T
For T=2 years, Max. 24 hour rainfall R 24
=23.8mm
T
T
i 24
R24
/ 24 28.8 / 24 0.99
n

T
xb 24 0.99x1 / 3 24
Hence a T i24

Return Period T
(years)
1
2
5
10
25
50
100

0.81

13.16

Max.24-hour Rainfall (mm)


9.12
23.80
43.20
57.87
77.28
91.95
106.63

aT

Max. 24 hour Intensity


(mm/hr)
0.38
0.99
1.80
2.41
3.22
3.83
4.44

5.04
13.16
23.88
32.00
42.72
50.84
58.95

c)
Calculation of intensity and plotting of IDF curves
Calculate the intensity for each desired duration with the given return period T years.
For T=2 years, a=13.16
Using t=10 minutes
n
0.81
Intensity I a t b 13.6 10 / 60 1 / 3
=23.06mm/hr

Return Period T
(years)
Duration t (min)
10
20
30
45
50
60
75
90
120

10

25

50

100

8.84
7.00
5.84
4.72
4.45
3.99
3.47
3.08
2.54

23.06
18.27
15.25
12.33
11.61
10.42
9.07
8.05
6.62

41.87
33.17
27.68
22.38
21.08
18.92
16.46
14.62
12.02

56.10
44.44
37.09
29.99
28.24
25.35
22.05
19.58
16.11

77.54
60.54
49.97
39.88
37.42
33.36
28.77
25.37
20.61

89.13
7.060
58.93
47.64
44.87
40.27
35.04
31.11
25.59

103.35
81.87
68.33
55.25
52.03
46.70
40.63
36.08
29.68

Intensity Duration Frequency Curves

42

HWRE 2010 AR

Average Intensity (mm/min)

120
100
80
60
40
20
0
0

20

40

60

80

100

120

140

Duration (min)
1 RT

2 RT

5 RT

10 RT

25 RT

50 RT

100 RT

Fig 5.17 Intensity Duration Frequency Curves


Fig 5.17 shows the Intensity Duration Frequency (IDF) curves of return periods of 1,2,5,10,25,50 and
100 years for Kabale Town.

Summary

Precipitation is considered one of the major components of the hydrological cycle. Therefore a
correct understanding of its formation, types, measurement and statistical analysis such as IDFs,
mass curves, among others, is important to have correct and representative information on whose
basis different conclusions can be drawn and design decisions made. This chapter includes
aspects of all these issues identified. Furthermore, the Climate of Uganda is discussed in some
detail on zone-basis.

References
1. Arora S.O., Water Resources Hydropower and Irrigation Engineering, Standard Publishers and
Distributors, 1996, Dehli, India.
2. Asadullah,A., McIntyre, N., Kigobe, M., Evaluation of Five Satellite Products for Estimation of
Rainfall over Uganda, Journal of Hydrological Sciences, 2008, 53(6) pp1137-1150, International
Association of Hydrological Sciences, London, UK.
3. Ayoade J.O., Tropical Hydrology and Water Resources, Macmillan, 1998, London, UK.
4. Barret E.C., Martin D.W., The Use of Satellite Data in Rainfall Monitoring, Academy Press,1981,
London, UK.
5. Basalirwa C.P.K., Delineation of Uganda into Climatological Rainfall Zones using the method of
Principal Component Analysis. International Journal of Climatology, 1995, Vol 15 pp1161-1177,
London, UK.
6. Das G., Hydrology and Soil Conservation Engineering, Prentice Hall 2006, New Dehli, India.
43

HWRE 2010 AR
7. Duggal K. N., Soni J.P., Elements of Water Resources Engineering, New Age International
Publishers 2007, New Dehli India.
8. Garg S.K., Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering, Khanna Publishers, 1998, Dehli, India.
9. Guide to Hydrological Practices, 5th Edition, World Meteorological Organization, 1994, Geneva,
Switzerland.
10. Hydroclimatic Study, Directorate of Water Resources Management, Ministry of Water and
Environment 2008, Kampala, Uganda.
11. Jones J.A.A. Global Hydrology, Longman, 1996, London, UK.
12. Kizza, M., Rainfall Trend Analysis and Uncertainty Related Runoff Modeling within the Lake
Victoria Basin, Licentiate Thesis, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala, 2008,
Uppsala, Sweden.
13. Kolsky P., Storm Drainage, An Engineering Guide to the Low Cost Evaluation of System
Performance in the Tropics, Intermediate Technology Publications, 1999, London,UK.
14. Lubega F., Detection of Inhomogenieties in the National Climate Dataset (1902-2003) of Uganda,
Proceedings, Groundwater and Climate in Africa, 2008, Kampala, Uganda, University College
London/Ministry of Water and Environment, Kampala,2008, Uganda.
15. Majugu A.W., The Generation and Application of Climate Information Products and Services for
Disaster Preparedness, WMO Drought Monitoring Centre, 2003, Nairobi, Kenya.
16. Mangeni B. M., Katashaya G. N., Surface Rainfall Estimate from Islands Stations Data Proceedings
of the First International
Conference on Advances in Engineering and Technology,16-19
July,Entebbe, Elsevier, 2006, London, UK.
17. Phillips J., McIntyre B., ENSO and Inter annual Rainfall Variability in Uganda: Implications for
Agricultural Management, International Journal of Climatology, 2000,Vol 20 pp171-182, Royal
Meteorological Society, London, UK.
18. Raghunath H.M., Hydrology, Principles, Analysis, Design, New Age International Publishers, 2006,
India.

19. Rainwater Harvesting Strategy Final Report, 2005 Directorate of Water Development,
Ministry of Water Lands and Environment, Kampala, Uganda.
20. Rugumayo A. I., Kiiza B, Muzira S., Developing Hydrological Models using Limited Data Sets.
Proceedings of the Institution of Engineers of Tanzania International Association for Hydraulic
Research (IET IAHR) Conference 2002, Arusha, Tanzania.
21. Sayed M.A.A., Water Resources Management and its Role in Integrated Development, Licentiate
Thesis, Royal Institute of Technology, 2002, Stockholm, Sweden.
22. Shaw, E.M., Hydrology in Practice, Chapman, 1992, London, UK.
23. State of Environment Report 1998 National Environment Authority, Ministry of Water, Lands and
Environment 1999, Kampala, Uganda.
24. State of Environment Report 2000/2001, National Environment Management Authority, Ministry of
Water, Lands and Environment 2002, Kampala, Uganda.
25. Subramanya K., Engineering Hydrology, 2nd Edition, Tata, McGraw Hill, 1994, New Dehli.
26. Sutcliffe J.V., Parks Y.P., The Hydrology of the Nile, International Association of Hydrological
Sciences, 1999, Wallingford, UK.
27. Uganda National Environment Management Authority, State of Environment Report, 1996, Kampala,
Uganda.
28. Watkins L.H, Fiddes D., Highway and Urban Hydrology in the Tropics. Pentech Press, 1984,
London, UK.
29. Wilson E.M., Engineering Hydrology, 4th Edition, Macmillan, 1996.London, UK.
30. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/cloud_seeding

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HWRE 2010 AR

Questions
1. Discuss the formation of precipitation.
2. Discuss the various forms of precipitation
3. Describe the different methods of recording rainfall
4. Explain the different methods of obtaining the average rainfall over a catchment due to a storm together
with their advantages and disadvantages.
5. Explain a procedure for checking rainfall data for inconsistency.
6. Explain a procedure for supplementing the missing rainfall data.
7. Explain briefly the significance of the following in relation to precipitation.
a) Depth Area curves
b) Maximum Depth Area Duration Curves
c) Intensity Duration Frequency Curves
8. The rainfall data given below was obtained from a single rain gauge for 50 consecutive days of the
year. Derive the rainfall hyetograph and the rainfall mass curve. (Hint: Read data down column starting
with column 1-5)
Columns
Rows
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

9.4
1.8
7.9
11.4
1.3
15.0
17.0
65.5
34.0
9.9

1.3
42.9
32.0
2.3
4.8
1.5
8.1
3.0
3.6
2.0

18.8
3.0
15.5
6.9
17.0
16.5
16.5
4.1
7.9
1.5

2.5
1.5
1.5
0.8
43.9
4.3
17.5
18.8
2.3
26.9

7.4
1.8
20.8
2.0
9.7
5.6
4.8
27.2
1.8
11.2

9. For the catchment shown in the figure below, the readings for average precipitation at each station are
indicated. Find the average precipitation for the entire watershed using:
i.
The Average method
ii.
The Thiessen polygon method
iii.
The Isohyetal method

45

HWRE 2010 AR

58
66
72
70

68

69

70
74
77
82
78
90

76

87

65

84
80
75
72

70

68

66

62

64
60

10. Given the catchment in the figure below showing the rainfall isohyets,
i.
Find the average precipitation for the entire watershed.
46

HWRE 2010 AR
ii.

Plot a curve of equivalent uniform depths vs area enclosed by isohyets and basin.

93

24

90
85
80
75

38
38

70
41
41

65

53

60
67

93

55
50

115
140

47

HWRE 2010 AR
1.

Given the following maximum daily rainfall for 12 years measured at Masindi Meteorological station.
Prepare a set of IDF curves using the Watkins and Fiddes method for Return Periods of 2, 5, 10, 25,
50 (You may assume b = 0.33 and teff = 1.0hrs)

Year
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970
1971
1972
1973
1974
1975
1976
1977

Duration (hour)
1.3
1.1
1
0.6
0.5
0.6
2.1
1.2
1.4
1.1
0.9
0.8

Maximum daily rainfall (mm)


22.0
31.3
24.5
8.2
31.9
41.5
4.0
29.6
34.2
28.9
35.2
32.7

12.i) What are the main factors that are considered in the siting of a rain gauge?
ii) Explain the errors associated with the estimation of rainfall using a raingauge.
13. Discuss the types of precipitation and distinguish between warm frontal rainfall and cold
frontal rainfall.
14. Define the following terms
i.
Relative humidity
ii.
Saturation
iii.
Saturation deficit
iv.
Dew point
v.
Cloud seeding
vi.
Areal extent
15. What are the main influencing factors that determine the Climate of Uganda?
16. Discuss the estimation of rainfall using remote sensing.

48