Modelling precipitation in a mountain environment using an orographic precipitation model. Towards a better understanding, assessment and prediction of water resources in Sierra de Guadarrama National Park.

Project facts

Project promoter
Complutense University of Madrid
Project Number:
Target groups
Researchers or scientists
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 7,976
The project is carried out in:


The project consists on performing a high resolution assessment of the water and snow catchment of Sierra de Guadarrama using a combination of in-situ measurements of precipitation and temperature and the application of a mathematical modelling tool specially designed for orographic precipitation. Results from this project will improve the understanding of mountain precipitation phenomenology and the role played by the mountain range in the orographic precipitation processes. The partnership is expected to achieve a high resolution data base of precipitation extending from 1989 to 2013 of Sierra de Guadarrama National Park and area of influence as well as improve knowledge of the precipitation processes and forcings at mountains. The donor partner, Uni Research (Norway), will contribute with its know how and many years of experience in developing a spectral orographic precipitation model with numerous and prestigious publications related with this methodology. The project promoter has been working at the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park Meteorological Network from its origin, designing and maintaining this mountain meteorological network.

Summary of project results

Correct assessment of precipitations in a region is needed for a correct water management and policy making. Usual approaches are observation with different measurement techniques and estimation using computational models, or a combination of both. But, assessing precipitation at mountains is not well solved yet: conducting observation is expensive and not very reliable, and modelling requires solving the mathematical and physical equations with very high temporal and special resolution, thus its high time and resource consuming. Sierra de Guadarrama has recently become part of the Spanish National Park Network. It’s an area of great importance in terms of biodiversity and plays a crucial role supplying fresh water to Madrid metropolitan area, industry and agriculture. Nevertheless, not much is known about the spatial patterns, origin of the marked summer drought or enough clear explanations about the dry spells that occur in the region. Neither about the impact of future climate scenarios and their impact on the water resources of future generations. This research has overcame the two obstacles above mentioned. A complete set of reliable measurements have been available, that have been compiled and validated and then analysed by the beneficiary. A simple but traceable and fast tool for modelling precipitations at mountains developed by Uni-Research has been applied. It includes observation data but also input data such as elevation models or meteorological data from global reanalyses. The methodology has been validated against observations, and the two main features of precipitation in Sierra de Guadarrama have been checked: the marked summer drought and the high inter-annual variability. New phenomena have been included in the model, and an evaluation of the performance of these phenomena in Sierra de Guadarrama has been performed. Finally, a 24 years precipitation simulation with a horizontal resolution of 200 m has been performed, the first for this area.

Summary of bilateral results

This cooperation has established a solid relationship for future projects. There is a growing interest at the Norwegian institution to exchange experiences on rain monitoring techniques at mountains. Also, results obtained with the model and methodology have shown to be valid for a Mediterranean continentalized mountain range such as Sierra de Guadarrama. This might open a new horizon for future investigations related to forecasting techniques, climate change scenarios downscaling and other applications. Hopefully this project could be the first step of a wider cooperation relationship between both partners. Universidad Complutense de Madrid is starting to run a modern precipitation network on Sierra de Guadarrama that will help testing, validating and improving the modelling tools of Uni-Research. Besides, the authorities of the National Park of Sierra de Guadarrama have shown interest on the results and conclusions of the project, and there are other institutions related to the water management (Canal Isabel II, Confederación Hidrográfica del Tajo, Conferederación Hidrográfica del Duero) that might also be interested. The work would not have been possible without the contribution of the know how, advice and modelling code from Uni-Research, which also provided the infrastructure for the conducting the experiments. At the same time, since the tool has never being applied to a Mediterranean not oceanic environment, the work has been specially interesting and led to include new phenomena in the model, both previously suggested by other authors and new ones. This will help the community using this tool in the future.