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Yanchen Zheng, Jianzhu Li, Lixin Dong, Youtong Rong, Aiqing Kang, and Ping Feng

Abstract

Initial abstraction (Ia) is a sensitive parameter in hydrological models, and its value directly determines the amount of runoff. Ia, which is influenced by many factors related to antecedent watershed condition (AWC), is difficult to estimate due to lack of observed data. In the Soil Conservation Service curve number (SCS-CN) method, it is often assumed that Ia is 0.2 times the potential maximum retention S. Yet this assumption has frequently been questioned. In this paper, Ia/S and factors potentially influencing Ia were collected from rainfall–runoff events. Soil moisture and evaporation data were extracted from GLDAS-Noah datasets to represent AWC. Based on the driving factors of Ia, identified using the Pearson correlation coefficient and maximal information coefficient, artificial neural network (ANN)-estimated Ia was applied to simulate the selected flood events in the Hydrologic Engineering Center Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS) model. The results indicated that Ia/S varies over different events and different watersheds. Over 75% of the Ia/S values are less than 0.2 in the two study areas. The driving factors affecting Ia vary over different watersheds, and the antecedent precipitation index appears to be the most influential factor. Flood simulation by the HEC-HMS model using statistical Ia gives the best fitness, whereas applying ANN-estimated Ia outperforms the simulation with median Ia/S. For over 60% of the flood events, ANN-estimated Ia provided better fitness in flood peak and depth, with an average Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency coefficient of 0.76 compared to 0.71 for median Ia/S. The proposed ANN-estimated Ia is physically based and can be applied without calibration, saving time in constructing hydrological models.

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