Estimating Rainfall Intensity Using an Image-Based Deep Learning Model

Hang Yin, Feifei Zheng, Huan Feng Duan, Dragan Savic, Zoran Kapelan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Urban flooding is a major issue worldwide, causing huge economic losses and serious threats to public safety. One promising way to mitigate its impacts is to develop a real-time flood risk management system; however, building such a system is often challenging due to the lack of high spatiotemporal rainfall data. While some approaches (i.e., ground rainfall stations or radar and satellite techniques) are available to measure and/or predict rainfall intensity, it is difficult to obtain accurate rainfall data with a desirable spatiotemporal resolution using these methods. This paper proposes an image-based deep learning model to estimate urban rainfall intensity with high spatial and temporal resolution. More specifically, a convolutional neural network (CNN) model called the image-based rainfall CNN (irCNN) model is developed using rainfall images collected from existing dense sensors (i.e., smart phones or transportation cameras) and their corresponding measured rainfall intensity values. The trained irCNN model is subsequently employed to efficiently estimate rainfall intensity based on the sensors’ rainfall images. Synthetic rainfall data and real rainfall images are respectively utilized to explore the irCNN's accuracy in theoretically and practically simulating rainfall intensity. The results show that the irCNN model provides rainfall estimates with a mean absolute percentage error ranging between 13.5% and 21.9%, which exceeds the performance of other state-of-the-art modeling techniques in the literature. More importantly, the main feature of the proposed irCNN is its low cost in efficiently acquiring high spatiotemporal urban rainfall data. The irCNN model provides a promising alternative for estimating urban rainfall intensity, which can greatly facilitate the development of urban flood risk management in a real-time manner.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Convolutional neural networks (CNNs)
  • Deep learning model
  • Rainfall images
  • Rainfall intensity
  • Urban flooding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • General Engineering


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