Rain erosivity map for Germany derived from contiguous radar rain data

Karl Auerswald, Franziska K. Fischer, Tanja Winterrath, Robert Brandhuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Erosive rainfall varies pronouncedly in time and space. Severe events are often restricted to a few square kilometers. Radar rain data with high spatiotemporal resolution enable this pattern of erosivity to be portrayed with high detail. We used radar data with a spatial resolution of 1 km2 over 452 503 km2 to derive a new erosivity map for Germany and to analyze the seasonal distribution of erosivity. The expected long-term regional pattern was extracted from the scattered pattern of events by several steps of smoothing. This included averaging erosivity from 2001 to 2017 and smoothing in time and space. The pattern of the resulting map was predominantly shaped by orography. It generally agrees well with the erosivity map currently used in Germany (Sauerborn map), which is based on regressions using rain gauge data (mainly from the 1960s to 1980s). In some regions the patterns of both maps deviate because the regressions of the Sauerborn map were weak. Most importantly, the new map shows that erosivity is about 66% larger than in the Sauerborn map. This increase in erosivity was confirmed by long-term data from rain gauge stations that were used for the Sauerborn map and which are still in operation. The change was thus not caused by using a different methodology but by climate change since the 1970s. Furthermore, the seasonal distribution of erosivity shows a slight shift towards the winter period when soil cover by plants is usually poor. This shift in addition to the increase in erosivity may have caused an increase in erosion for many crops. For example, predicted soil erosion for winter wheat is now about 4 times larger than in the 1970s. These highly resolved topical erosivity data will thus have definite consequences for agricultural advisory services, landscape planning and even political decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1819-1832
Number of pages14
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2019


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