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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-2019-44
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-44
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 27 Feb 2019

Research article | 27 Feb 2019

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

Assessing the performance of global hydrological models for capturing peak river flows in the Amazon Basin

Jamie Towner1, Hannah L. Cloke1,2,4,5, Ervin Zsoter3,1, Zachary Flamig6, Jannis M. Hoch7,8, Juan Bazo10,11, Erin Coughlan de Perez9,10, and Elisabeth M. Stephens1 Jamie Towner et al.
  • 1Department of Geography & Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AB, UK
  • 2Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK
  • 3European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Park, Reading, RG6 9AX, UK
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden
  • 5Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science, CNDS, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden
  • 6University of Chicago Center for Data Intensive Science, Chicago, USA
  • 7Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80115, 3508 TC Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 8Deltares, P.O. Box 177, 2600 MH Delft, the Netherlands
  • 9International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
  • 10Red CrossRed Crescent Climate Centre, The Hague, 2521 CV, the Netherlands
  • 11Universidad Tecnológica del Perú (UTP), Lima, Perú

Abstract. Extreme flooding impacts millions of people that live within the Amazon floodplain. Global Hydrological Models (GHMs) are frequently used to assess and inform the management of flood risk, but knowledge on the skill of available models is required to inform their use and development. This paper presents an intercomparison of eight different GHMs freely available from collaborators of the Global Flood Partnership (GFP) for simulating floods in the Amazon basin. To gain insight into the strengths and shortcomings of each model, we assess their ability to reproduce daily and annual peak river flows against gauged observations at 75 hydrological stations over a 19-year period (1997–2015). As well as highlighting regional variability in the accuracy of simulated streamflow these results indicate that (a) the meteorological input is the dominant control on the accuracy of both daily and annual maximum river flows, and (b) groundwater and routing calibration of Lisflood based on daily river flows has no impact on the ability to simulate flood peaks for the chosen river basin. These findings have important relevance for applications of large-scale hydrological models, including analysis of the impact of climate variability, assessment of the influence of long-term changes such as land-use and anthropogenic climate change, the assessment of flood likelihood, and for flood forecasting systems.

Jamie Towner et al.
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Short summary
This study presents an intercomparison analysis of eight Global Hydrological Models (GHMs) assessing their ability to simulate peak river flows in the Amazon basin. Results indicate that the meteorological input is the most influential component of the hydrological modelling chain with the recent ERA-5 reanalysis data set significantly improving the ability to simulate flood peaks in the Peruvian Amazon. In contrast, calibration of the Lisflood routing model was found to have no impact.
This study presents an intercomparison analysis of eight Global Hydrological Models (GHMs)...
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