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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) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 16 Mar 2020

Submitted as: research article | 16 Mar 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Hydrological evaluation of open-access precipitation data using SWAT at multiple temporal and spatial scales

Jianzhuang Pang1, Huilan Zhang1, Quanxi Xu2, Yujie Wang1, Yunqi Wang1, Ouyang Zhang2, and Jiaxin Hao1 Jianzhuang Pang et al.
  • 1Three-gorges reservoir area (Chongqing) Forest Ecosystem Research Station, School of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
  • 2Bureau of Hydrology, Changjiang Water Resources Commission of the Ministry of the Water Resources, Wuhan 430010, China

Abstract. Temporal and spatial precipitation information is key to conducting effective hydrological process simulation and forecasting. Herein, we implemented a comprehensive evaluation of three selected precipitation products in the Jiang River Watershed (JRW) located in southwest China. A number of indices were used to statistically analyze the differences between two open-access precipitation products (OPPs), i.e. Climate Hazards Group Infra-Red Precipitation with Station (CHIRPS) and CPC-Global (CPC), and the rain gauge (Gauge). The three products were then categorized into sub-basins to drive SWAT simulations. The results show: (1) the three products are highly consistent in temporal variation on a monthly scale, yet distinct on a daily scale. CHIRPS is characterized by overestimation of light rain, underestimation of heavy rain, and a high probability of false alarm. CPC generally underestimates rainfall of all magnitudes; (2) All three products satisfactorily reproduce the stream discharges at the JRW outlet with better performance than the Gauge model. On a temporal scale, the OPPs are inferior with respect to capturing flood peak, yet superior at describing other hydrograph features, e.g. rising and falling processes and base flow. On a spatial scale, CHIRPS offers the advantage of deriving smooth, distributed precipitation and runoff due to its high resolution; (3) The water balance components derived from SWAT models with equal simulated streamflow discharges are remarkably different between the three precipitation inputs. The precipitation spatial pattern results in an increasing surface flow trend from upstream to downstream. The results of this study demonstrate that evaluating precipitation products using only streamflow simulation accuracy will conceal the dissimilarities between these products. Hydrological models alter hydrologic mechanisms by adjusting calibrated parameters. Specifically, different precipitation detection methods lead to temporal and spatial variation of water balance components, demonstrating the complexity in describing natural hydrologic processes.

Jianzhuang Pang et al.

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Jianzhuang Pang et al.

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Latest update: 03 Apr 2020
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Short summary
As frequently used precipitation products, Gauge, CPC and CHIRPS presented different behaviors in describing precipitation on different spatial and temporal scales, yet these dissimilarities could be concealed in hydrological modeling by parameter calibration and validation. Parameter adjustment in hydrologic modeling, however, would yield different water balance components and thus alter hydrologic mechanisms, demonstrating the complexity in physically describing natural hydrologic processes.
As frequently used precipitation products, Gauge, CPC and CHIRPS presented different behaviors...