The Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center (HDSC), Hydrology Laboratory, Office of Hydrologic Development, U.S. National Weather Service is updating its precipitation frequency analysis for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Current precipitation frequency studies for the area are contained in Technical Paper No. 42 "Generalized estimates of probable maximum precipitation and rainfall-frequency data for Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands" (U.S. Weather Bureau 1961) and Technical Paper No. 53 "Two- to ten-day rainfall for return periods of 2 to 100 years in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands" (Miller 1965). The current study includes collecting data and performing quality control, compiling and formatting datasets for analyses, selecting applicable frequency distributions and fitting techniques, analyzing data, mapping and preparing reports and other documentation. The study will determine annual and seasonal precipitation frequencies for durations from 5 minutes to 60 days, for return periods from 2 to 1000 years. The study will review and process all available rainfall data for the Puerto Rico and Virgin Island study area and use accepted statistical methods. The study results will be published as a Volume of NOAA Atlas 14. They will also be made available on the internet using web pages with the additional ability to download digital files.

A Statistical Method for Forecasting Rainfall over Puerto Rico

Carter MM, Elsner JB. 1997. A statistical method for forecasting rainfall over Puerto Rico. Weather Forecasting 12: 515–525.

Using results from a factor analysis regionalization of nontropical storm convective rainfall over the island of Puerto Rico, a statistical methodology is investigated for its potential to forecast rain events over limited areas. Island regionalization is performed on a 15-yr dataset, while the predictive model is derived from 3 yr of surface and rainfall data. The work is an initial attempt at improving objective guidance for operational rainfall forecasting in Puerto Rico. Surface data from two first-order stations are used as input to a partially adaptive classification tree to predict the occurrence of heavy rain. Results from a case study show that the methodology has skill above climatology—the leading contender in such cases. The algorithm also achieves skill over persistence. Comparisons of forecast skill with a linear discriminant analysis suggest that classification trees are an easier and more natural way to handle this kind of forecast problem. Synthesis of results confirms the notion that despite the very local nature of tropical convection, synoptic-scale disturbances are responsible for prepping the environment for rainfall. Generalizations of the findings and a discussion of a more realistic forecast setting in which to apply the technology for improving tropical rainfall forecasts are given.


Spatial and temporal variabilities of rainfall in Puerto Rico are significant. A predominant storm distribution considered to be representative of a critical storm for design purposes in Puerto Rico is the Soil Conservation Service [SCS] Type II distribution. The main objective of this project was to determine the temporal rainfall distributions of extreme storms in the historical records in Puerto Rico and their similarities with well known design storms published in the literature. The impact of rainstorm sequences on the response of a typical small watershed was evaluated. The sensitivity of the watershed runoff response to rainfall record sampling time interval, curve number and lag time was determined. Extreme rainfall sequence events were identified from the historical records by comparing the historic rainfall sequences with the SCS Type II distribution. 24-hour rainfall periods with a sequence of rainfall similar to the SCS Type II distribution were found. These were not necessarily periods of continuous rainfall. These critical rainfall sequences were mainly the result of low pressure troughs. The historical impacts of the rainfall events with distribution similar to Type II were significant and site specific effects such as flooding and landslides were documented. The time interval of the sample had an effect on the response of the watershed used in this study. This difference in the watershed response is reduced as the lag time is increased.

Precipitation distribution and raingage networks in the luquillo mountains

R. G. CLEMENTS. 1979. Precipitation distribution
and raingage networks in the Luquillo Mountains, p.
57-66. Zn River basin energy and environmental
planning. Univ. Puerto Rico, CEER-T-40.

Variations in Belowground Carbon Storage and Soil CO2 Flux Rates along a Wet Tropical Climate Gradient

McGroddy, Megan; Silver, Whendee L. 2000. Variations in Belowground Carbon Storage and Soil CO2 Flux Rates along a Wet Tropical Climate Gradient. BIOTROPICA 32(4a): 614-624 .

We used a humid tropical elevation gradient to examine the relationships among climate, edaphic conditions, belowground carbon storage, and soil respiration rates. We also compared open and closed canopy sites to increase the range of microclimate conditions sampled along the gradient, and determine the effects of canopy openings on C and P storage, and C dynamics. Total soil C, the light C fraction, and all of the component fractions of the P pool were significantly related to soil moisture, and all but total soil C were also significantly related to temperature. Both labile and recalcitrant soil P fractions were negatively correlated with the light C fraction, while the dilute HCl-extractable P pool, generally thought of as intermediate in availability, was positively correlated with light C, suggesting that P may play an important role in C cycling within these systems. Total fine root biomass was greatest at 1000 m elevation and lowest at 150 m, and was strongly and positively correlated with soil moisture content. Soil respiration rates were significantly and negatively correlated with fine root biomass and the light C fraction. In forested sites, soil respiration rates were strongly and negatively correlated with total belowground C pools (soils 1 roots 1 forest floor). Belowground C pools did not follow the expected increasing trend with decreases in temperature along the gradient. Our results indicated that in humid tropical forests, the relationships among soil C and nutrient pools, soil respiration rates, and climate are complex. We suggest that frequent and prolonged anaerobic events could be important features of these environments that may explain the observed trends.

The Frequency and Distribution of Recent Landslides in three MontaneTropical Regions of Puerto Rico

Larsen, Matthew C.; Torres-Sanchez, Angel J. 1998. The frequency and distribution of recent landslides in three montane tropical regions of Puerto Rico. Geomorphology 24 :309-331.

Landslides are common in steep mountainous areas of Puerto Rico where mean annual rainfall and the frequency of intense storms are high. Each year, landslides cause extensive damage to property and occasionally result in loss of life. Average population density is high, 422 peoplerkm2, and is increasing. This increase in population density is accompanied by growing stress on the natural environment and physical infrastructure. As a result, human populations are more vulnerable to landslide hazards. The Blanco, Cibuco, and Coamo study areas range in surface area from 276 to 350 km2 and represent the climatologic, geographic, and geologic conditions that typify Puerto Rico. Maps of recent landslides developed from 1:20,000-scale aerial photographs, in combination with a computerized geographic information system, were used to evaluate the frequency and distribution of shallow landslides in these areas. Several types of landslides were documented— rainfall-triggered debris flows, shallow soil slips, and slumps were most abundant. Hillslopes in the study area that have been anthropogenically modified, exceed 128 in gradient, are greater than 300 m in elevation, and face the east-northeast, are most prone to landsliding. A set of simplified matrices representing geographic conditions in the three study areas was developed and provides a basis for the estimation of the spatial controls on the frequency of landslides in Puerto Rico. This approach is an example of an analysis of the frequency of landslides that is computationally simple, and therefore, may be easily transferable to other settings.



Accurate assessment of water budgets is critical for effective management of water resources, especially on small, densely-populated islands with extremely limited storage capacity such as Puerto Rico. A water budget defines a balance between inputs, outputs, and storage. The water budgets described herein provide a generalized summary of the inputs, extractions, and outputs from four watersheds in and near the Luquillo mountains using rainfall, runoff, and public-supply extraction data as well as estimates of groundwater losses and inputs such as cloud drip and infiltration from septic tanks. Mean annual rainfall accumulation during a 7-year study (1991 to 1997) ranged from 1,722 mm in the Canóvanas watershed, to 4,235 mm in the Icacos and Mameyes watersheds; the Cayaguás watershed had 2,172 mm. Combined runoff, groundwater flow and withdrawals ranged from 47 to 73 percent of inputs (combined rainfall, cloud drip and septic tank infiltration). Evapotranspiration, calculated as the water budget residual, amounted to 27, 40, 44, and 53 percent of total moisture inputs in the Icacos, Cayaguás, Mameyes, and Canóvanas watersheds, respectively.


Larsen, M.C., Torres-Sánchez, A.J., and Concepción, I.M., 1998, Slopewash, surface runoff, and fine-litter transport in forest and landslide scars in humid-tropical steeplands, Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico [abs] EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, vol. 80.

Rainfall, slopewash (the erosion of soil particles), surface runoff, and fine-litter transport at humid-tropical steepland sites in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico (18? 20' N, 65? 45' W) were measured from 1991 to 1995. Hillslopes underlain by: 1) Cretaceous tuffaceous sandstone and siltstone in subtropical rain (tabonuco) forest with vegetation recovering from Hurricane Hugo (1989); and underlain by 2) Tertiary quartz diorite in subtropical lower montane wet (colorado and dwarf) forest with undisturbed forest canopy were compared to recent landslide scars. Monthly surface runoff on these very steep hillslopes (24? to 43?) was only 0.2 to 0.5 percent of monthly rainfall. Slopewash was higher in sandy loam soils whose parent material is quartz diorite (averaging 46 g m-2 a-1) than in silty-clay loam soils derived from tuffaceous sandstone and siltstone where the average was 9 g m-2 a-1. Annual slopewash of 100 to 349 g m-2 on the surfaces of two recent, small landslide scars was measured initially but slopewash decreased to only 3 to 4 g m-2 a-1 by the end of the study. The mean annual mass of fine litter (mainly leaves and twigs) transported downslope at the forested sites ranged from 5 to 8 g m-2 and was lower at the tabonuco forest site, where post-Hurricane Hugo recovery is still in progress. Mean annual fine-litter transport was 2.5 g m-2 on the two landslide scars.


Larsen, M. C., M. T. Va´squez Conde, and R. A. Clark, Landslide
hazards associated with flash-floods, with examples from the December,
1999 disaster in Venezuela, in Coping with Flash Floods,
edited by E. Gruntfest and J. Handmer, NATO ASI Ser., in press,

Landslides and flash floods commonly occur together in response to intense and prolonged rainfall. Although these phenomena may be viewed by the popular media as distinct events, rainfall-triggered landslides and flash floods are part of a continuum of processes that includes debris flows, hyperconcentrated flows, and streamflow. This combination of processes has proven to be highly destructive in populated areas. Without careful planning of human settlements, the impacts of these types of disasters are likely to increase in the future. As stated by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, “The term ‘natural disaster’ has become an increasingly anachronistic misnomer. In reality, human behavior transforms natural hazards into what should really be called unnatural disasters.”

Characteristics of fog and fogwater fluxes in a Puerto Rican elfin cloud forest

Eugster, Werner ; Burkard, Reto; Holwerda, Friso; Scatena, Frederick N.; Bruijnzeel, L.A.(Sampurno) 2006. Characteristics of fog and fogwater fluxes in a Puerto Rican elfin cloud forest.. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 139 :288-306.

The Luquillo Mountains of northeastern Puerto Rico harbours important fractions of tropical montane cloud forests. Although it is well known that the frequent occurrence of dense fog is a common climatic characteristic of cloud forests around the world, it is poorly understood how fog processes shape and influence these ecosystems. Our study focuses on the physical characteristics of fog and quantifies the fogwater input to elfin cloud forest using direct eddy covariance net flux measurements during a 43-day period in 2002.We used an ultrasonic anemometer–thermometer in combination with a size-resolving cloud droplet spectrometer capable of providing number counts in 40 droplet size classes at a rate of 12.5 times per second. Fog occurred during 85% of the time, and dense fog with a visibility <200 m persisted during 74% of the period. Fog droplet size depended linearly on liquid water content(r2 ¼ 0:89) with a volume-weighted mean diameter of 13.8 mm. Due to the high frequency of occurrence of fog the total fogwater deposition measured with the eddy covariance method and corrected for condensation and advection effects in the persistent upslope air flow, averaged 4.36 mm day1, rainfall during the same period was 28 mm day1. Thus, our estimates of the contribution of fogwater to the hydrological budget of elfin cloud forests is considerable and higher than in any other location for which comparable data exist but still not a very large component in the hydrological budget. For estimating fogwater fluxes for locations without detailed information about fog droplet distributions we provide simple empirical relationships using visibility data.
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