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J. M. Schuurmans and M. F. P. Bierkens

Abstract

This study mimics an online forecast system to provide nine day-ahead forecasts of regional soil moisture. It uses modified ensemble rainfall forecasts from the numerical weather prediction model of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which is provided by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Office (KNMI). Both the individual ensembles as well as the mean of the ensembles are used as input for a hydrological model of a 70-km2 study area during March–November 2006. The outcomes are compared to the model run with high-resolution rainfall fields (based on 14 rain gauges within the study area and meteorological radar) as input. It is shown that the total spatial mean rainfall is forecasted very well for all lead times. The measured rainfall (spatial mean) shows a distribution with peaks at 0–1 and >10 mm day−1. These peaks are underestimated by the ensemble mean of the forecasts and this underestimation increases with lead time. This is not the case when ensemble members are used. Besides, the modeled uncertainty in rainfall by ECMWF underestimates the true uncertainty for all lead times and the number of rainfall events (thresholds 0.1, 0.5, and 1.0 mm) is overestimated. Absolute temporal mean bias values in root zone storage—that is, soil moisture—larger than 1 mm start to show for lead times longer than 3 days. The lower and upper bounds of bias for a lead time of 9 days are approximately −4 and 7 mm, respectively (negative values mean the forecasted soil moisture is underestimated). The bias in root zone storage shows a spatial pattern that represents the spatial pattern of total rainfall: areas with less rainfall than spatial average show a negative bias and vice versa. Local differences within this spatial pattern are due to land use and soil type. The results suggest that ensemble forecasts of soil moisture using ensemble rainfall forecasts from ECMWF are of practical use for water management, even at regional scales.

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M. F. P. Bierkens and L. P. H. van Beek

Abstract

In this paper the skill of seasonal prediction of river discharge and how this skill varies between the branches of European rivers across Europe is assessed. A prediction system of seasonal (winter and summer) discharge is evaluated using 1) predictions of the average North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index for the coming winter based on May SST anomalies of the North Atlantic; 2) a global-scale hydrological model; and 3) 40-yr European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Re-Analysis (ERA-40) data. The skill of seasonal discharge predictions is investigated with a numerical experiment. Also Europe-wide patterns of predictive skill are related to the use of NAO-based seasonal weather prediction, the hydrological properties of the river basin, and a correct assessment of initial hydrological states. These patterns, which are also corroborated by observations, show that in many parts of Europe the skill of predicting winter discharge can, in theory, be quite large. However, this achieved skill mainly comes from knowing the correct initial conditions of the hydrological system (i.e., groundwater, surface water, soil water storage of the basin) rather than from the use of NAO-based seasonal weather prediction. These factors are equally important for predicting subsequent summer discharge.

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J. M. Schuurmans, M. F. P. Bierkens, E. J. Pebesma, and R. Uijlenhoet

Abstract

This study investigates the added value of operational radar with respect to rain gauges in obtaining high-resolution daily rainfall fields as required in distributed hydrological modeling. To this end data from the Netherlands operational national rain gauge network (330 gauges nationwide) is combined with an experimental network (30 gauges within 225 km2). Based on 74 selected rainfall events (March–October 2004) the spatial variability of daily rainfall is investigated at three spatial extents: small (225 km2), medium (10 000 km2), and large (82 875 km2). From this analysis it is shown that semivariograms show no clear dependence on season. Predictions of point rainfall are performed for all three extents using three different geostatistical methods: (i) ordinary kriging (OK; rain gauge data only), (ii) kriging with external drift (KED), and (iii) ordinary collocated cokriging (OCCK), with the latter two using both rain gauge data and range-corrected daily radar composites—a standard operational radar product from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). The focus here is on automatic prediction. For the small extent, rain gauge data alone perform better than radar, while for larger extents with lower gauge densities, radar performs overall better than rain gauge data alone (OK). Methods using both radar and rain gauge data (KED and OCCK) prove to be more accurate than using either rain gauge data alone (OK) or radar, in particular, for larger extents. The added value of radar is positively related to the correlation between radar and rain gauge data. Using a pooled semivariogram is almost as good as using event-based semivariograms, which is convenient if the prediction is to be automated. An interesting result is that the pooled semivariograms perform better in terms of estimating the prediction error (kriging variance) especially for the small and medium extent, where the number of data points to estimate semivariograms is small and event-based semivariograms are rather unstable.

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F. C. Sperna Weiland, L. P. H. van Beek, J. C. J. Kwadijk, and M. F. P. Bierkens

Abstract

The representation of hydrological processes in land surface schemes (LSSs) has recently been improved. In this study, the usability of GCM runoff for river discharge modeling is evaluated by validating the mean, timing, and amplitude of the modeled annual discharge cycles against observations. River discharge was calculated for six large rivers using runoff, precipitation, and actual evaporation from the GCMs ECHAM5 and Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model version 2 (HadGEM2). Four methods were applied: 1) accumulation of GCM runoff, 2) routing of GCM runoff, 3) routing of GCM runoff combined with temporal storage of subsurface runoff, and 4) offline hydrological modeling with the global distributed hydrological model PCRaster Global Water Balance (PCR-GLOBWB) using meteorological data from the GCMs as forcing. The quality of discharge generated by all four methods is highly influenced by the quality of the GCM data. In small catchments, the methods that include runoff routing perform equally well, although offline modeling with PRC-GLOBWB outperforms the other methods for ECHAM5 data. For larger catchments, routing introduces realistic travel times, decreased day-to-day variability, and it reduces extremes. Complexity of the LSS of both GCMs is comparable to the complexity of the hydrological model. However, in HadGEM2 the absence of subgrid variability for saturated hydraulic conductivity results in a large subsurface runoff flux and a low seasonal variability in the annual discharge cycle. The analysis of these two GCMs shows that when LSSs are tuned to reproduce realistic water partitioning at the grid scale and a routing scheme is also included, discharge variability and change derived from GCM runoff could be as useful as changes derived from runoff obtained from offline simulations using large-scale hydrological models.

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J. M. Gregory, N. J. White, J. A. Church, M. F. P. Bierkens, J. E. Box, M. R. van den Broeke, J. G. Cogley, X. Fettweis, E. Hanna, P. Huybrechts, L. F. Konikow, P. W. Leclercq, B. Marzeion, J. Oerlemans, M. E. Tamisiea, Y. Wada, L. M. Wake, and R. S. W. van de Wal

Abstract

Confidence in projections of global-mean sea level rise (GMSLR) depends on an ability to account for GMSLR during the twentieth century. There are contributions from ocean thermal expansion, mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets, groundwater extraction, and reservoir impoundment. Progress has been made toward solving the “enigma” of twentieth-century GMSLR, which is that the observed GMSLR has previously been found to exceed the sum of estimated contributions, especially for the earlier decades. The authors propose the following: thermal expansion simulated by climate models may previously have been underestimated because of their not including volcanic forcing in their control state; the rate of glacier mass loss was larger than previously estimated and was not smaller in the first half than in the second half of the century; the Greenland ice sheet could have made a positive contribution throughout the century; and groundwater depletion and reservoir impoundment, which are of opposite sign, may have been approximately equal in magnitude. It is possible to reconstruct the time series of GMSLR from the quantified contributions, apart from a constant residual term, which is small enough to be explained as a long-term contribution from the Antarctic ice sheet. The reconstructions account for the observation that the rate of GMSLR was not much larger during the last 50 years than during the twentieth century as a whole, despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing. Semiempirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of the authors' closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the twentieth century.

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