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Volume 21, issue 9 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4825-4839, 2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 28 Sep 2017

Research article | 28 Sep 2017

A hydrological prediction system based on the SVS land-surface scheme: efficient calibration of GEM-Hydro for streamflow simulation over the Lake Ontario basin

Étienne Gaborit1, Vincent Fortin1, Xiaoyong Xu2, Frank Seglenieks3, Bryan Tolson2, Lauren M. Fry4, Tim Hunter5, François Anctil6, and Andrew D. Gronewold5 Étienne Gaborit et al.
  • 1Environment Canada, Environmental Numerical Prediction Research (E-NPR), Dorval, H9P1J3, Canada
  • 2University of Waterloo, Civil and Environmental Engineering Dpt., Waterloo, N2L3G1, Canada
  • 3Environment Canada, Boundary Water Issues, Burlington, L7S1A1, Canada
  • 4U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, Detroit, MI 48226, USA
  • 5NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA
  • 6Civil and Water Engineering department, Université Laval, Québec, G1V0A6, Canada

Abstract. This work explores the potential of the distributed GEM-Hydro runoff modeling platform, developed at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) over the last decade. More precisely, the aim is to develop a robust implementation methodology to perform reliable streamflow simulations with a distributed model over large and partly ungauged basins, in an efficient manner. The latest version of GEM-Hydro combines the SVS (Soil, Vegetation and Snow) land-surface scheme and the WATROUTE routing scheme. SVS has never been evaluated from a hydrological point of view, which is done here for all major rivers flowing into Lake Ontario. Two established hydrological models are confronted to GEM-Hydro, namely MESH and WATFLOOD, which share the same routing scheme (WATROUTE) but rely on different land-surface schemes. All models are calibrated using the same meteorological forcings, objective function, calibration algorithm, and basin delineation. GEM-Hydro is shown to be competitive with MESH and WATFLOOD: the NSE    (Nash–Sutcliffe criterion computed on the square root of the flows) is for example equal to 0.83 for MESH and GEM-Hydro in validation on the Moira River basin, and to 0.68 for WATFLOOD. A computationally efficient strategy is proposed to calibrate SVS: a simple unit hydrograph is used for routing instead of WATROUTE. Global and local calibration strategies are compared in order to estimate runoff for ungauged portions of the Lake Ontario basin. Overall, streamflow predictions obtained using a global calibration strategy, in which a single parameter set is identified for the whole basin of Lake Ontario, show accuracy comparable to the predictions based on local calibration: the average NSE    in validation and over seven subbasins is 0.73 and 0.61, respectively for local and global calibrations. Hence, global calibration provides spatially consistent parameter values, robust performance at gauged locations, and reduces the complexity and computation burden of the calibration procedure. This work contributes to the Great Lakes Runoff Inter-comparison Project for Lake Ontario (GRIP-O), which aims at improving Lake Ontario basin runoff simulations by comparing different models using the same input forcings. The main outcome of this study consists in a new generalizable methodology for implementing a distributed hydrologic model with a high computation cost in an efficient and reliable manner, over a large area with ungauged portions, using global calibration and a unit hydrograph to replace the routing component.

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Short summary
The work presents an original methodology for optimizing streamflow simulations with the distributed hydrological model GEM-Hydro. While minimizing the computational time required for automatic calibration, the approach allows us to end up with a spatially coherent and transferable parameter set. The GEM-Hydro model is useful because it allows simulation of all physical components of the hydrological cycle in every part of a domain. It proves to be competitive with other distributed models.
The work presents an original methodology for optimizing streamflow simulations with the...