In the context of a RUSLE erosion modelling I would like to calculate the sum of precipitation at the entry date of phenological phases.

Suppose I have 13 grids, one of which is the phenophase entry date PhenoDate with values from 1 to 356, the other 12 represent average daily shares of the annual precipitation sum for the individual months [dPrecJan,...,dPrecDec].

I would like to calculate the precipitation sum using a set of conditional statements:

If the phenophase begins in january, multiply the phenophase entry date with the january average daily precipitation, else if the phenophase begins in february, multiply [...]

I already tried to implement my conditional statements using the sum of products, where the condition returns either 0 or 1:

PrecSum <- ((PhenoDate<32) * PhenoDate * dPrecJan) + (
(PhenoDate>=32 & PhenoDate<60) * ((31*dPrecJan)+((PhenoDate-31) * dPrecFeb))) + (
(PhenoDate>=60 & PhenoDate<91) * ((31*dPrecJan)+(28*dPrecFeb)+(
(PhenoDate-59) * dPrecMar))) + (( [etc.]))

Actually not too complicated construction, but since I use very high-resolution raster layers, the calculation goes beyond my memory capacities.

I'm looking for a memory-efficient construction, which allows to set multiple conditional statements on my raster calculation.

  • How high is "very high resolution"? Assuming your code works then this is totally a question about lowering memory usage, and without a precise statement of usage we can't properly help.
    – Spacedman
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 21:44
  • every single sub-expression here (PhenoDate<32) implies memory usage, so I'd be trying a couple of those in isolation and see how it's handled, is the result in memory or backed to a (new) file. You might get the job done by saving several intermediate raster objects. The resolution per se is irrelevant, what matters is the number of pixels, e.g. dim(PhenoDate)
    – mdsumner
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 21:51
  • If the issue is about memory and not speed, you can split the rasters, do the computation part by part, save each part to a file and combine them at the end of the computation. It's a bit dirty but I think it makes the job
    – Chelmy88
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 8:25
  • Could you please share anyhow some of your rasters (or some clip) and your code ? Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


I solved the issue using a nested ifelse() construction:

    myform<-function(PhenoDate,dPrecJan,dPrecFeb,[...],dPrecDec) { ifelse (
    PhenoDate < 32, PhenoDate * dPrecJan, ifelse (
    PhenoDate>=32 & PhenoDate<60, 31 * dPrecJan + ((PhenoDate-31) * dPrecFeb), ifelse (
    PhenoDate>=60 & PhenoDate<91, 31 * dPrecJan+ 28 * dPrecFeb+((PhenoDate-59) * dPrecMar), ifelse (

I stacked the 13 grids using stack():


Then I used overlay()


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