Over the last 25 years or so, weather–radar networks have become an integral part of operational meteorological observing systems. While measurements of rainfall made using radar systems have been used qualitatively by weather forecasters, and by some operational hydrologists, acceptance has been limited as a consequence of uncertainties in the quality of the data. Nevertheless, new algorithms for improving the accuracy of radar measurements of rainfall have been developed, including the potential to calibrate radars using the measurements of attenuation on microwave telecommunications links. Likewise, ways of assimilating these data into both meteorological and hydrological models are being developed.
In this paper we review the current accuracy of radar estimates of rainfall, pointing out those approaches to the improvement of accuracy which are likely to be most successful operationally. Comment is made on the usefulness of satellite data for estimating rainfall in a flood–forecasting context. Finally, problems in coping with the error characteristics of all these data using both simple schemes and more complex four–dimensional variational analysis are being addressed, and are discussed briefly in this paper.