Abstract

Recent advances in climate reanalyses have led to the development of meteorological products providing information from the beginning of the last century or even before. As these data sources might be of interest to practitioners in the event of missing data from meteorological stations, it is important to assess their usefulness for different applications. The main objective of this study is to investigate the ability of two long-term reanalysis datasets (CERA-20C and 20CR) and one long-term interpolated dataset (Livneh) for supporting hydrological modelling. The precipitation and temperature data of the three datasets were first compared, downscaled and then used as inputs to the conceptual hydrological model HBV in 168 basins in the United States. The findings suggest that the quality of all three datasets decreases the further we go back in time. Models calibrated at the beginning of the timeseries, where the data quality is worse, are only able to capture the general properties of the timeseries and thus do not show a decrease in performance as the period between calibration and validation becomes larger. The opposite is true for models calibrated at the end of the timeseries, which show a clear decrease in performance towards the beginning of the century. While the hydrological model driven with the interpolated datasets achieved the best performance, the results obtained with the reanalysis datasets were still informative (i.e., better than the long-term monthly mean), and they matched the performance of the interpolated dataset in a few catchments in the Northwest United States.

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