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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 15 Jan 2019

Research article | 15 Jan 2019

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

A Multi-Objective Ensemble Approach to Hydrological Modelling in the UK: An Application to Historic Drought Reconstruction

Katie A. Smith1, Lucy J. Barker1, Maliko Tanguy1, Simon Parry1, Shaun Harrigan2, Tim P. Legg3, Christel Prudhomme2,1,4, and Jamie Hannaford1,5 Katie A. Smith et al.
  • 1Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
  • 2European Centre for Medium - Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Road, Reading, RG2 9AX, UK
  • 3Met Office, FitzRoy Road, Exet er, Devon, EX1 3PB, UK
  • 4Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
  • 5Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS, Department of Geography, Maynooth, Ireland

Abstract. Hydrological models can provide estimates of streamflow pre- and post- observations, which enable greater understanding of past hydrological behaviour, and potential futures. In this paper, a new multi-objective calibration method was derived and tested for 303 catchments in the UK, and the calibrations were used to reconstruct river flows back to 1891, in order to provide a much longer view of past hydrological variability, given the brevity of most UK river flow records which began post-1960. A Latin Hypercube sample of 500,000 parameterisations for the GR4J model for each catchment were evaluated against six evaluation metrics covering all aspects of the flow regime from high, median and low flows. The results of the top ranking model parameterisation (LHS1), and also the top 500 (LHS500), for each catchment were used to provide a deterministic result whilst also accounting for parameter uncertainty. The calibrations are generally good at capturing observed flows, with some exceptions in heavily groundwater dominated catchments, and snowmelt and artificially influenced catchments across the country. Reconstructed flows were appraised over 30 year moving windows, and were shown to provide good simulations of flow in the early parts of the record, in cases where observations were available. To consider the utility of the reconstructions for drought simulation, flow data for the 1975/76 drought event were explored in detail in nine case study catchments. The model's performance in reproducing the drought events was found to vary by catchment, as did the level of uncertainty in the LHS500. The Standardised Streamflow Index (SSI) was used to assess the model simulations’ ability to simulate extreme events. The peaks and troughs of the SSI timeseries were well represented despite slight over or underestimations of past drought event magnitudes, while the accumulated deficits of the drought events extracted from the SSI timeseries verified that the model simulations were overall very good at simulating drought events. This work provides an exemplar framework for calibrating catchment models for use in multiple applications. The ~ 125 year spatially and temporally consistent reconstructed flow dataset derived for this study will also allow comprehensive quantitative assessments of past UK drought events, as well as long term analyses of hydrological variability that have not been previously possible. This will allow water resource managers to better plan for extreme events, and build more resilient systems for the future.

Katie A. Smith et al.
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Katie A. Smith et al.
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Short summary
This paper describes the multi-objective calibration approach used to create a consistent dataset of reconstructed daily river flow data for 303 catchments in the UK over 1891–2015. The modelled data performs well when compared to observations, including in the timing and the classification of drought events. This method and data will allow for long term studies of flow trends and past extreme events that have not been previously possible, enabling water managers to better plan for the future.
This paper describes the multi-objective calibration approach used to create a consistent...