Bayesian hierarchical modeling of extreme hourly precipitation in Norway


Spatial maps of extreme precipitation are a critical component of flood estimation in hydrological modeling, as well as in the planning and design of important infrastructure. This is particularly relevant in countries, such as Norway, that have a high density of hydrological power generating facilities and are exposed to significant risk of infrastructure damage due to flooding. In this work, we estimate a spatially coherent map of the distribution of extreme hourly precipitation in Norway, in terms of return levels, by linking generalized extreme value (GEV) distributions with latent Gaussian fields in a Bayesian hierarchical model. Generalized linear models on the parameters of the GEV distribution are able to incorporate location-specific geographic and meteorological information and thereby accommodate these effects on extreme precipitation. Our model incorporates a Bayesian model averaging component that directly assesses model uncertainty in the effect of the proposed covariates. Gaussian fields on the GEV parameters capture additional unexplained spatial heterogeneity and overcome the sparse grid on which observations are collected. Our framework is able to appropriately characterize both the spatial variability of the distribution of extreme hourly precipitation in Norway and the associated uncertainty in these estimates.