Decomposition of Sources of Errors in Monthly to Seasonal Streamflow Forecasts in a Rainfall–Runoff Regime

Tushar Sinha Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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A. Sankarasubramanian Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Amirhossein Mazrooei Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

Despite considerable progress in developing real-time climate forecasts, most studies have evaluated the potential in seasonal streamflow forecasting based on ensemble streamflow prediction (ESP) methods, utilizing only climatological forcings while ignoring general circulation model (GCM)-based climate forecasts. The primary limitation in using GCM forecasts is their coarse resolution, which requires spatiotemporal downscaling to implement land surface models. Consequently, multiple sources of errors are introduced in developing real-time streamflow forecasts utilizing GCM forecasts. A set of error decomposition metrics is provided to address the following questions: 1) How are errors in monthly streamflow forecasts attributed to various sources such as temporal disaggregation, spatial downscaling, imprecise initial hydrologic conditions (IHCs), climatological forcings, and imprecise forecasts? and 2) How do these errors propagate with lead time over different seasons? A calibrated Variable Infiltration Capacity model is used over the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee in the southeastern United States. The model is forced with a combination of daily precipitation forcings (temporally disaggregated observed precipitation, spatially downscaled and temporally disaggregated observed precipitation, ESP, ECHAM4.5 forecasts, and observed) and IHCs [simulated and climatological ensemble reverse ESP (RESP)] but with observed air temperature and wind speed at ⅛° resolution. Then, errors in forecasting monthly streamflow at up to a 3-month lead time are decomposed by comparing the forecasted streamflow to simulated streamflow under observed forcings. Results indicate that the errors due to temporal disaggregation are much higher than the spatial downscaling errors. During winter and early spring, the increasing order of errors at a 1-month lead time is spatial downscaling, model, temporal disaggregation, RESP, large-scale precipitation forecasts, and ESP.

Corresponding author address: Tushar Sinha, 2501 Stinson Dr., Box 7908, Raleigh, NC 27695-7908. E-mail: tsinha@ncsu.edu

Abstract

Despite considerable progress in developing real-time climate forecasts, most studies have evaluated the potential in seasonal streamflow forecasting based on ensemble streamflow prediction (ESP) methods, utilizing only climatological forcings while ignoring general circulation model (GCM)-based climate forecasts. The primary limitation in using GCM forecasts is their coarse resolution, which requires spatiotemporal downscaling to implement land surface models. Consequently, multiple sources of errors are introduced in developing real-time streamflow forecasts utilizing GCM forecasts. A set of error decomposition metrics is provided to address the following questions: 1) How are errors in monthly streamflow forecasts attributed to various sources such as temporal disaggregation, spatial downscaling, imprecise initial hydrologic conditions (IHCs), climatological forcings, and imprecise forecasts? and 2) How do these errors propagate with lead time over different seasons? A calibrated Variable Infiltration Capacity model is used over the Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee in the southeastern United States. The model is forced with a combination of daily precipitation forcings (temporally disaggregated observed precipitation, spatially downscaled and temporally disaggregated observed precipitation, ESP, ECHAM4.5 forecasts, and observed) and IHCs [simulated and climatological ensemble reverse ESP (RESP)] but with observed air temperature and wind speed at ⅛° resolution. Then, errors in forecasting monthly streamflow at up to a 3-month lead time are decomposed by comparing the forecasted streamflow to simulated streamflow under observed forcings. Results indicate that the errors due to temporal disaggregation are much higher than the spatial downscaling errors. During winter and early spring, the increasing order of errors at a 1-month lead time is spatial downscaling, model, temporal disaggregation, RESP, large-scale precipitation forecasts, and ESP.

Corresponding author address: Tushar Sinha, 2501 Stinson Dr., Box 7908, Raleigh, NC 27695-7908. E-mail: tsinha@ncsu.edu
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