Precipitation phase uncertainty in cold region conceptual models resulting from meteorological forcing time-step intervals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Precipitation phase determination is a known source of uncertainty in surface-based hydrological, ecological, safety, and climate models. This is primarily due to the surface precipitation phase being a result of cloud and atmospheric properties not measured at surface meteorological or hydrological stations. Adding to the uncertainty, many conceptual hydrological models use a 24-h average air temperature to determine the precipitation phase. However, meteorological changes to atmospheric properties that control the precipitation phase often substantially change at sub-daily timescales. Model uncertainty (precipitation phase error) using air temperature (AT), dew-point temperature (DP), and wet-bulb temperature (WB) thresholds were compared using averaged and time of observation readings at 1-, 3-, 6-, 12-, and 24-h periods. Precipitation phase uncertainty grew 35–65% from the use of 1–24 h data. Within a sub-dataset of observations occurring between AT -6 and 6 °C representing 57% of annual precipitation, misclassified precipitation was 7.9% 1 h and 11.8% 24 h. Of note, there was also little difference between 1 and 3 h uncertainty, typical time steps for surface meteorological observations.


  • James M. Feiccabrino
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources


  • Conceptual models, Precipitation phase, Snow, Snow model, Temperature threshold
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-187
Number of pages8
JournalHydrology Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch