Analysis of watershed topography effects on summer precipitation variability in the southwestern United States Academic Article uri icon


  • With climate change, precipitation variability is projected to increase. The present study investigates the potential interactions between watershed characteristics and precipitation variability. The watershed is considered as a functional unit that may impact seasonal precipitation. The study uses historical precipitation data from 370 meteorological stations over the last five decades, and digital elevation data from regional watersheds in the southwestern United States. This domain is part of the North American Monsoon region, and the summer period (June-July-August, JJA) was considered. Based on an initial analysis for 1895-2011, the JJA precipitation accounts, on average, for 22-43% of the total annual precipitation, with higher percentages in the arid part of the region. The unique contribution of this research is that entropy theory is used to address precipitation variability in time and space. An entropy-based disorder index was computed for each station's precipitation record. The JJA total precipitation and number of precipitation events were considered in the analysis. The precipitation variability potentially induced by watershed topography was investigated using spatial regionalization combining principal component and cluster analysis. It was found that the disorder in precipitation total and number of events tended to be higher in arid regions. The spatial pattern showed that the entropy-based variability in precipitation amount and number of events gradually increased from east to west in the southwestern United States. Regarding the watershed topography influence on summer precipitation patterns, hilly relief has a stabilizing effect on seasonal precipitation variability in time and space. The results show the necessity to include watershed topography in global and regional climate model parameterizations. 2014.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Djebou, D., Singh, V. P., & Frauenfeld, O. W.

citation count

  • 28

complete list of authors

  • Djebou, Dagbegnon C Sohoulande||Singh, Vijay P||Frauenfeld, Oliver W

publication date

  • April 2014