The precipitation output files have changed formats.
As of approximately 8:15 pm EDT, on June 27, the precipitation file formats were updated as discussed in this Service Change Notification.
San Juan Radar Outage Impacts Precipitation Estimates... read more here.
Last Update: 01/17/2018 0944 GMT
The precipitation data are quality-controlled, multi-sensor (radar and rain gauge) precipitation estimates
obtained from National Weather Service (NWS) River Forecast Centers (RFCs) and mosaicked by National Centers for
Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The original data from NCEP is in GRIB (GRIdded Binary or General
Regularly-distributed Information in Binary form) format (files pre-March 22nd, 2017 are in XMRG format) and
projected in the Hydrologic Rainfall Analysis Project (HRAP) grid coordinate system, a polar stereographic
projection true at 60°N / 105°W.
Use the form above to download these files.
To automate or download multiple datasets, you can download a program called
Due to increased web security, the anonymous FTP server is no longer available.
If you wish to use WGET (see above) or to manually download the data see:
If you have any questions or problems, please contact
The following links provide more information about the observed precipitation, normal
precipitation, and derived precipitation products:
Data Formats Post-March 22nd, 2017
Tips for using these precipitation data formats on common GIS platfoms are available here.
The new QPE NetCDFs generated from the NCEP Stage IV data are CF-compliant multi-variable NetCDFs.
The variables they contain are:
observation - Last 24 hours of QPE spanning 12Z to 12Z in inches
normal - PRISM normals in inches (see
"Normal Precipitation" section on the About page)
departure_from_normal - The departure from normal in inches
percent_of_normal - The percent of normal
The new QPE GeoTIFFs generated from the NCEP Stage IV data are multi-band GeoTIFF. The bands they contain are:
Band 1 - Observation - Last 24 hours of QPE spanning 12Z to 12Z in inches
Band 2 - PRISM normals - PRISM normals in inches (see "Normal Precipitation" section on the About page)
Band 3 - Departure from normal - The departure from normal in inches
Band 4 - Percent of normal - The percent of normal
In output files, the special value of -10,000 means the cell is missing data. In other words, the cell is expected to
have valid data, but no data had been received. Since data is submitted by individual RFCs, if an RFC does not
submit data for their area all the cells within the RFC will be filled with a value of -10,000 and show up dark gray
on the mapping interface.
The output masks used to determine whether or not data should contain valid data or not can be downloaded
In all three masks, a value of 0 marks a cell that does not fall within the bounds of valid input data.
A three digit value will indicate which RFC is responsible for providing data for a given grid cell. In many cases,
any value greater than 1 can simply be considered a cell which should contain valid data. Lastly, the CONUS mask contains
cells with a value of 1. These cells indicate they contain off-shore readings from coastal RFCs. A value of 1
fills the cells in the Gulf of Mexico and of the eastern coastline of the United States.
Symbolizing in ArcMap or QGIS
To symbolize the downloadable output to the look of the mapping interface,
use the ArcMap layer files available here
or the QGIS color map text files available here.
Note: It's important that the NetCDF files are used in ArcMap when applying the ArcMap layer files.
Currently, ArcMap (tested with ArcMap 10.5) doesn't support the "Classified" symbology type
for the multiband GeoTiff files. When using QGIS (tested with QGIS 2.8.6-Wein), either file format
can be used.
Applying symbology in ArcMap
- Drag the NetCDF file into the ArcMap
- (optional) Select the appropriate variable in the NetCDF tab if it's not already asked for a selection
- Open the Symbology tab of the layer's properties
- Select the "Classified" symbology type in the left pane
- Click the folder icon to import the symbology from a file or other layer
- Click the folder icon in the "Import Symbology" window
- Select the appropriate .lyr file for the dataset being viewed
- Click "Ok"
Applying symbology in QGIS
- Drag a NetCDF file or GeoTiff into QGIS
- (optional) Select the appropriate band if using GeoTiff - see band definitions above
- Open the Style pane of the layer's properties
- Select "Single band psuedocolor" as the Render Type
- Click the folder icon for "Load color map from file"
- Select the appropriate color map file for the dataset being viewed
- Click "Ok"
Data Formats Pre-March 22nd, 2017
The shapefile contains the following fields:
- ID - a unique value for each grid bin
- HRAPX - column number of the HRAP grid cell (higher numbers are further east)
- HRAPY - row number of the HRAP grid cell (higher numbers are further north)
- LATITUDE of the HRAP grid point
- LONGITUDE of the HRAP grid point
- GLOBVALUE - 24-hour precipitation value in inches. "-2" values correspond to "Missing Data", i.e. an incomplete dataset.
The second download option "Legend File" will help you reproduce the color scheme we are using. If using Arcview,
you will need to copy it into your
directory and load it manually through the legend editor. This file does not change from day to day.
Projection files (.PRJ extension) is available at
Please note, grids with no precipitation (i.e. 0.00") are not in the observed data shapefiles.
A shapefile with all points is available at
A precipitation data legend file can be downloaded at
A problem was discovered on August 9, 2007. The shapefile coordinates for each HRAP grid were
indicative of the lower left corner of the grid rather than the center of the grid.
The entire shapefile archive has been updated to correct the lat-lon issue.
shows both the old and new coordinates for each point.
NetCDF Information (archive version)
The three netCDF files (one for CONUS, one for Puerto Rico, and one for Alaska), may be used
independently of one another. Each
file contains the following fields:
hrap_xor and hrap_yor - the lower left corner of the grid
hrapx and hrapy - grid dimensions
amountofprecip - an array with the 24-hour precipitation values in hundredths of a millimeter
(a value of 2540 corresponds to 1 inch). "-1" values correspond to "No Data", e.g. data over the ocean.
"-2" values correspond to "Missing Data", e.g. an incomplete dataset.
other metadata - date and time of creation, lat-lon of the bottom-left, bottom-right, top-right
and top-left corners of the grids, et al.
NOTE -- Latitude and Longitude are not explicitly stated in the netCDF file.
The second download option "HRAP-to-LatLon" contains source code for a C-program.
The program contains a function that reprojects HRAP coordinates to Lat-Lon coordinates.
The fully compiled program reads the netCDF files and
writes ascii files with the following fields:
- id - a unique value for each grid bin
- hrapx - column number of the HRAP grid cell (higher numbers are further north)
- hrapy - row number of the HRAP grid cell (higher numbers are further east)
- latitude of the HRAP grid point
- longitude of the HRAP grid point
- value - 24-hour precipitation value in inches
To compile the C-program you will need to install the netCDF library on your computer.
More information about using netCDF files (including the netCDF C-library) is available from the
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).