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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-622
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-622
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 09 Jan 2019

Submitted as: research article | 09 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

A global scale evaluation of extreme events in the eartH2Observe project

Toby R. Marthews1, Eleanor M. Blyth1, Alberto Martínez-de la Torre1, and Ted I. E. Veldkamp2 Toby R. Marthews et al.
  • 1Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Wallingford OX10 8BB, UK
  • 2Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. Knowledge of how uncertainty propagates through a hydrological land surface modelling sequence is of crucial importance in the identification and characterisation of system weaknesses in the prediction of droughts and floods at global scale. We evaluated the performance of five state-of-the-art global hydrological and land surface models in the context of modelling extreme conditions (drought and flood). Uncertainty was apportioned between model used (model skill) and also the satellite-based precipitation products used to drive the simulations (forcing data variability) for extreme values of precipitation, surface runoff and evaporation. We found in general that model simulations acted to augment uncertainty rather than reduce it. In percentage terms, the increase in uncertainty was most often less than the magnitude of the input data uncertainty, but of comparable magnitude in many environments. Uncertainty in predictions of evapotranspiration lows (drought) in dry environments was especially high, indicating that these circumstances are a weak point in current modelling system approaches. We also found that high data and model uncertainty points for both ET lows and runoff lows were disproportionately concentrated in the equatorial and southern tropics. Our results are important for highlighting the relative robustness of satellite products in the context of land surface simulations and identifying areas where improvements may be made in the consistency of simulation models.

Toby R. Marthews et al.
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Short summary
Climate change impact modellers can only act on predictions of the occurrence of an extreme event in the Earth System if they know the uncertainty in that prediction and how uncertainty is attributable to different model components. Using eartH2Observe data, we quantify the balance between different sources of uncertainty in global evapotranspiration and runoff, making a crucial contribution to understanding the spatial distribution of water resource allocation deficiencies.
Climate change impact modellers can only act on predictions of the occurrence of an extreme...
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