Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Krajewski, Witold F.

First Committee Member

Eichinger, William E.

Second Committee Member

Bradley, Allen A.

Third Committee Member

Hornbuckle, Brian K.

Fourth Committee Member

Kruger, Anton


The interception and redirection of rainfall by vegetation has implications for many fields such as remote sensing of soil moisture, satellite observation of rainfall, and the modeling of runoff, climate, and soil erosion. Although the modeling of rainfall partitioning by forests has received attention in the past, partitioning caused by crops has been overlooked. The present work proposes a two front experimental and computational methodology to comprehensively study rainfall interception and partitioning by the maize canopy. In the experimental stage, we deployed two compact weather stations, two optical disdrometers, and five tipping bucket rain gauges. Two of the tipping bucket rain gauges were modified to measure throughfall while two were adapted to measure stemflow. The first optical disdrometer allowed for inspection of the unmodified drop-size and velocity distributions, whereas the second disdrometer measured the corresponding distributions under the canopy. This indicates that the outcome of the interaction between the hydrometeors and the canopy depends on the drop diameter.

In the computational stage, we created a model that uses drop-size and velocity distributions as well as a three-dimensional digital canopy to simulate the movement of raindrops on the surfaces of leaves. Our model considers interception, redirection, retention, coalescence, breakup, and re-interception of drops to calculate the stemflow, throughfall, and equivalent height of precipitation stored on plants for a given storm. Moreover, the throughfall results are presented as two-dimensional matrices, where each term corresponds to the accumulated volume of drops that dripped at a given location. This allows insight into the spatial distribution of throughfall beneath the foliage. Finally, we examine the way in which the maize canopy modifies the drop-size distribution by recalculating the drop velocity based on the raindrop's size and detachment height and by storing the counts of drops in diameter-velocity classes that are consistent with the classes used by disdrometers in the experimental study.


canopy architecture, computational modeling, drop-size distribution, Rainfall interception


xviii, 201 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 193-201).


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Copyright 2011 Renato Prata de Moraes Frasson