Bias correction of global high-resolution precipitation climatologies using streamflow observations from 9372 catchments

Hylke E. Beck, Eric F. Wood, Tim R. McVicar, Mauricio Zambrano-Bigiarini, Camila Alvarez-Garreton, Oscar M. Baez-Villanueva, Justin Sheffield, Dirk N. Karger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


We introduce a set of global high-resolution (0.058) precipitation (P) climatologies corrected for bias using streamflow (Q) observations from 9372 stations worldwide. For each station, we inferred the ‘‘true’’ long-term P using a Budyko curve, which is an empirical equation relating long-term P, Q, and potential evaporation. We subsequently calculated long-term bias correction factors for three state-of-the-art P climatologies [the ‘‘WorldClim version 2’’ database (WorldClim V2); Climatologies at High Resolution for the Earth’s Land Surface Areas, version 1.2 (CHELSA V1.2); and Climate Hazards Group Precipitation Climatology, version 1 (CHPclim V1)], after which we used random-forest regression to produce global gap-free bias correction maps for the P climatologies. Monthly climatological bias correction factors were calculated by disaggregating the long-term bias correction factors on the basis of gauge catch efficiencies. We found that all three climatologies systematically underestimate P over parts of all major mountain ranges globally, despite the explicit consideration of orography in the production of each climatology. In addition, all climatologies underestimate P at latitudes .608N, likely because of gauge undercatch. Exceptionally high long-term correction factors (.1.5) were obtained for all three P climatologies in Alaska, High Mountain Asia, and Chile—regions characterized by marked elevation gradients, sparse gauge networks, and significant snowfall. Using the bias-corrected WorldClim V2, we demonstrated that other widely used P datasets (GPCC V2015, GPCP V2.3, and MERRA-2) severely underestimate P over Chile, the Himalayas, and along the Pacific coast of North America. Mean P for the global land surface based on the bias-corrected WorldClim V2 is 862 mm yr21 (a 9.4% increase over the original WorldClim V2). The annual and monthly bias-corrected P climatologies have been released as the Precipitation Bias Correction (PBCOR) dataset, which is available online (
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1299-1315
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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