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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-176
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-176
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 28 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Behind the scenes of streamflow model performance

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz1,2, Guillaume Thirel3, Tanja de Boer-Euser1, Lieke A. Melsen4, Joost Buitink4, Claudia C. Brauer4, Jan De Niel5, Sotirios Moustakas5, Patrick Willems5,9, Benjamin Grelier6, Gilles Drogue6, Fabrizio Fenicia7, Jiri Nossent8,9, Fernando Pereira8, Eric Sprokkereef10, Jasper Stam10, Benjamin J. Dewals11, Albrecht H. Weerts2,4, Hubert H. G. Savenije1, and Markus Hrachowitz1 Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.
  • 1Department of Water Management, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, P.O. Box 5048, NL-2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands
  • 2Department Catchment and Urban Hydrology, Deltares, Boussinesqweg 1, 2629 HV Delft, The Netherlands
  • 3Université Paris-Saclay, INRAE, UR HYCAR, 92160, Antony, France
  • 4Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University and Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 5Hydraulics division, Department of Civil Engineering, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 40, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium
  • 6Université de Lorraine, LOTERR, F-57000 Metz, France
  • 7Eawag, Überlandstrasse 133, CH-8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 8Flanders Hydraulics Research, Berchemlei 115, B-2140 Antwerp, Belgium
  • 9Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
  • 10Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Zuiderwagenplein 2, 8224 AD Lelystad, The Netherlands
  • 11Hydraulics in Environmental and Civil Engineering (HECE), University of Liege, Allée de la Découverte 9, 4000 Liege Belgium

Abstract. Streamflow is often the only variable used to constrain hydrological models. In a previous international comparison study, eight research groups followed an identical protocol to calibrate a total of twelve hydrological models using observed streamflow of catchments within the Meuse basin. In the current study, we hypothesize that these twelve process-based models with similar streamflow performance have similar representations of internal states and fluxes. We test our hypothesis by comparing internal states and fluxes between models and we assess their plausibility using remotely-sensed products of evaporation, snow cover, soil moisture and total storage anomalies. Our results indicate that models with similar streamflow performance represent internal states and fluxes differently. Substantial dissimilarities between models are found for annual and seasonal evaporation and interception rates, the number of days per year with water stored as snow, the mean annual maximum snow storage and the size of the root-zone storage capacity. Relatively small root-zone storage capacities for several models lead to drying-out of the root-zone storage and significant reduction of evaporative fluxes each summer, which is not suggested by remotely-sensed estimates of evaporation and root-zone soil moisture. These differences in internal process representation imply that these models cannot all simultaneously be close to reality. Using remotely-sensed products, we could evaluate the plausibility of model representations only to some extent, as many of these internal variables remain unknown, highlighting the need for experimental research. We also encourage modelers to rely on multi-model and multi-parameter studies to reveal to decision-makers the uncertainties inherent to the heterogeneity of catchments and the lack of evaluation data.

Laurène J. E. Bouaziz et al.

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Short summary
We quantify the differences in internal states and fluxes of twelve process-based models with similar streamflow performance and assess their plausibility using remotely-sensed estimates of evaporation, snow cover, soil moisture and total storage anomalies. The dissimilarities in internal process representation imply that these models cannot all simultaneously be close to reality. Therefore, we invite modelers to evaluate their models using multiple variables and to rely on multi-model studies.
We quantify the differences in internal states and fluxes of twelve process-based models with...
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