Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2016-539
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
25 Oct 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) and is expected to appear here in due course.
Examining the impacts of estimated precipitation isotope (δ18O) inputs on distributed tracer-aided hydrological modelling
Carly J. Delavau, Tricia Stadnyk, and Tegan Holmes Department of Civil Engineering, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, R3T 5V6, Canada
Abstract. Tracer-aided hydrological models are becoming increasingly popular tools as they have documented utility in constraining model parameter space during calibration, reducing model uncertainty, and assisting with selection of appropriate model structures. However, the issue of data availability, particularly input data, proves to be a major challenge associated with this type of application. Tracer-aided hydrological modelling typically requires a time series of isotopes in precipitation (δ18Oppt) to drive model simulations, but unfortunately, throughout much of the world, and particularly in sparsely populated high-latitude regions, these data are not widely available. This study uses the isoWATFLOOD tracer-aided hydrological model to investigate the usefulness of three types of estimated δ18Oppt for model input, and the impact that these data have on model simulations and parameterization in the remote Fort Simpson Basin, NWT, Canada. This study showed that although total simulated streamflow was not significantly impacted by choice of δ18Oppt input, isotopes in streamflow (δ18OSF) simulations and the internal apportionment of water (and therefore, model parameterizations) were impacted, particularly during large precipitation and snowmelt events. This finding highlighted the importance of estimated δ18Oppt to capture both the variability and seasonality in precipitation isotopes as critical for tracer-aided hydrological modelling, especially when precipitation events displayed distinctly different isotopic compositions than that of streamflow. This study achieves an understanding of how isoWATFLOOD can be used in regions with a limited number of δ18Oppt observations, and that the model can be of value in such regions. This study reinforces that a tracer-aided modelling approach assists with resolving hydrograph component contributions, and works towards diagnosing the issue of model equifinality.

Citation: Delavau, C. J., Stadnyk, T., and Holmes, T.: Examining the impacts of estimated precipitation isotope (δ18O) inputs on distributed tracer-aided hydrological modelling, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-539, in review, 2016.
Carly J. Delavau et al.
Carly J. Delavau et al.

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Short summary
Hydrological models have large amounts of uncertainty in streamflow predictions. Using extra data (e.g. isotope tracers) helps evaluate if the model is getting the right answers for the right reasons. In a Canadian basin, three types of estimated tracer input are used to drive a tracer-aided model, as these observations are not typically available across large areas. This study shows how a tracer-aided model can be used at the larger-scale, and that the model can be of value in such regions.
Hydrological models have large amounts of uncertainty in streamflow predictions. Using extra...
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