How is the intensity of rainfall events best characterised? A brief critical review and proposed new rainfall intensity index for application in the study of landsurface processes

David Dunkerley

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In many studies of landsurface processes, the intensity of rainfall events is expressed with clock-period indexes such as I30, the wettest 30-minute interval within a rainfall event. Problematically, the value of I30 cannot be estimated for rainfall events shorter than 30 min, excluding many intense convective storms. Further, it represents a diminishing proportion of increasingly long rainfall events, declining to <2% of the duration of a 30-hour event but representing 25% of the duration of a two-hour event. Here, a new index termed EDf5 is proposed: It is the rainfall depth in the wettest 5% of the event duration. This can be derived for events of any duration. Exploratory determinations of EDf5 are presented for two Australian locations with contrasting rainfall climatologies-one arid and one wet tropical. The I30 index was similar at both sites (7.7 and 7.9 mm h-1) and was unable to differentiate between them. In contrast, EDf5 at the arid site was 7.4 mm h-1, whilst at the wet tropical site, it was 3.8 mm h-1. Thus, the EDf5 index indicated a greater concentration of rain at the arid site where convective storms occurred (i.e., the intensity sustained for 5% of event duration at that site is higher). The EDf5 index can be applied to short, intense events that can readily be included in the analysis of event-based rainfall intensity. I30 therefore appears to offer less discriminatory power and consequently may be of less value in the investigation of rainfall characteristics that drive many important landsurface processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number929
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • ED index
  • I30 intensity
  • Rainfall duration
  • Rainfall event
  • Rainfall intensity
  • Soil erosion

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