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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 11 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3447-3459, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-15-3447-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 17 Nov 2011

Research article | 17 Nov 2011

Comparison of hydrological model structures based on recession and low flow simulations

M. Staudinger1, K. Stahl2, J. Seibert1, M. P. Clark3, and L. M. Tallaksen4 M. Staudinger et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Institute of Hydrology Freiburg, Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany
  • 3University Cooperation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • 4Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Low flows are often poorly reproduced by commonly used hydrological models, which are traditionally designed to meet peak flow situations. Hence, there is a need to improve hydrological models for low flow prediction. This study assessed the impact of model structure on low flow simulations and recession behaviour using the Framework for Understanding Structural Errors (FUSE). FUSE identifies the set of subjective decisions made when building a hydrological model and provides multiple options for each modeling decision. Altogether 79 models were created and applied to simulate stream flows in the snow dominated headwater catchment Narsjø in Norway (119 km2). All models were calibrated using an automatic optimisation method. The results showed that simulations of summer low flows were poorer than simulations of winter low flows, reflecting the importance of different hydrological processes. The model structure influencing winter low flow simulations is the lower layer architecture, whereas various model structures were identified to influence model performance during summer.

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