Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2016-546
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
19 Oct 2016
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Streamflow characteristics from modelled runoff time series – importance of calibration criteria selection
Sandra Pool1, Marc J. P. Vis1, Rodney R. Knight2, and Jan Seibert1,3,4 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2U.S. Geological Survey Lower Mississippi – Gulf Water Science Center, 640 Grassmere Park, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37211, USA
3Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
4Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract. Ecologically relevant streamflow characteristics (SFCs) of ungauged catchments are often estimated from simulated runoff of hydrologic models. Estimated SFCs can be substantially uncertain when models are calibrated using traditional approaches based on minimization or maximization of statistical performance metrics (e.g. Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency). To evaluate model performance, we tested how well SFCs are simulated when the model objective function was calibrated using one or more SFCs. We calibrated a bucket-type runoff model for 25 catchments in the Tennessee River basin and evaluated the proposed calibration approach on 13 selected SFCs representing major flow regime components and different flow conditions. While the model tends to underestimate SFCs related to mean and high-flow conditions, SFCs related to low flow are overestimated. The highest estimation accuracies were achieved by a SFC-specific model calibration. Estimates of SFCs not included in the calibration process were of similar quality when comparing a multi-SFC calibration approach to a traditional Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency calibration. For practical applications, this implies that SFCs should preferably be estimated from targeted runoff model calibration and modelled estimates need to be carefully interpreted.

Citation: Pool, S., Vis, M. J. P., Knight, R. R., and Seibert, J.: Streamflow characteristics from modelled runoff time series – importance of calibration criteria selection, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-546, in review, 2016.
Sandra Pool et al.
Sandra Pool et al.
Sandra Pool et al.

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Short summary
This modelling study explores the effect of different model calibration criteria on the accuracy of simulated streamflow characteristics (SFCs). The results imply that one has to consider significant uncertainties when simulated time series are used to derive SFCs that were not included in the calibration. Thus, we strongly recommend calibrating the runoff model explicitly for the SFCs of interest. Our study helps improving the estimation of SFCs for ungauged catchments based on runoff models.
This modelling study explores the effect of different model calibration criteria on the accuracy...
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