Global evaluation of runoff from ten state-of-the-art hydrological models
Hylke E. Beck1, Albert I. J. M. van Dijk2, Ad de Roo1, Emanuel Dutra3, Gabriel Fink4, Rene Orth5, and Jaap Schellekens61European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Via Enrico Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra (VA), Italy 2Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australia 3European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Redding, UK 4Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany 5Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland 6Inland Water Systems Unit, Deltares, Delft, The Netherlands
Received: 13 Mar 2016 – Accepted for review: 11 May 2016 – Discussion started: 20 May 2016
Abstract. Observed runoff data from 966 medium sized catchments (1000 to 5000 km2) around the globe were used to comprehensively evaluate the daily runoff estimates (1979–2012) of six global hydrological models (GHMs) and four land surface models (LSMs) produced as part of Tier-1 of the eartH2Observe project. The models were all driven by the WATCH Forcing Data ERA-Interim (WFDEI) meteorological dataset, but used different datasets for non-meteorologic inputs and were run at various spatial and temporal resolutions, although all data were re-sampled to a common 0.5° spatial and daily temporal resolution. For the evaluation, we used a broad range of performance metrics related to important aspects of the hydrograph. We found pronounced inter-model performance differences, underscoring the importance of hydrological model uncertainty in addition to climate input uncertainty, for example in studies assessing the hydrological impacts of climate change. The (uncalibrated) GHMs were found to perform, on average, better than the (uncalibrated) LSMs in snow-dominated regions, while the ensemble mean was found to perform only slightly worse than the best (calibrated) model. The inclusion of less reliable models did not appreciably degrade the ensemble performance. Overall, more effort should be devoted on calibrating and regionalizing the parameters of macro-scale models. We further found that, despite adjustments using gauge observations, the WFDEI precipitation data still contain substantial biases that propagate into the simulated runoff. The early bias in the spring snowmelt peak exhibited by most models is probably primarily due to the widespread precipitation underestimation at high northern latitudes.
Beck, H. E., van Dijk, A. I. J. M., de Roo, A., Dutra, E., Fink, G., Orth, R., and Schellekens, J.: Global evaluation of runoff from ten state-of-the-art hydrological models, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-124, in review, 2016.