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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 21, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4841-4859, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-4841-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Sub-seasonal to seasonal hydrological forecasting

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 4841-4859, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-4841-2017
© 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

Complex relationship between seasonal streamflow forecast skill and value in reservoir operations

Sean W. D. Turner1,2, James C. Bennett3,4, David E. Robertson3, and Stefano Galelli5 Sean W. D. Turner et al.
  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, MD, USA
  • 2SUTD-MIT International Design Centre, Singapore University of Technology and Design, 487372, Singapore
  • 3CSIRO, Melbourne, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia
  • 4Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Battery Point, Tasmania 7004, Australia
  • 5Pillar of Engineering Systems and Design, Singapore University of Technology and Design, 487372, Singapore

Abstract. Considerable research effort has recently been directed at improving and operationalising ensemble seasonal streamflow forecasts. Whilst this creates new opportunities for improving the performance of water resources systems, there may also be associated risks. Here, we explore these potential risks by examining the sensitivity of forecast value (improvement in system performance brought about by adopting forecasts) to changes in the forecast skill for a range of hypothetical reservoir designs with contrasting operating objectives. Forecast-informed operations are simulated using rolling horizon, adaptive control and then benchmarked against optimised control rules to assess performance improvements. Results show that there exists a strong relationship between forecast skill and value for systems operated to maintain a target water level. But this relationship breaks down when the reservoir is operated to satisfy a target demand for water; good forecast accuracy does not necessarily translate into performance improvement. We show that the primary cause of this behaviour is the buffering role played by storage in water supply reservoirs, which renders the forecast superfluous for long periods of the operation. System performance depends primarily on forecast accuracy when critical decisions are made – namely during severe drought. As it is not possible to know in advance if a forecast will perform well at such moments, we advocate measuring the consistency of forecast performance, through bootstrap resampling, to indicate potential usefulness in storage operations. Our results highlight the need for sensitivity assessment in value-of-forecast studies involving reservoirs with supply objectives.

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This study investigates the relationship between skill and value of ensemble seasonal streamflow forecasts. Using data from a modern forecasting system, we show that skilled forecasts are more likely to provide benefits for reservoirs operated to maintain a target water level rather than reservoirs operated to satisfy a target demand. We identify the primary causes for this behaviour and provide specific recommendations for assessing the value of forecasts for reservoirs with supply objectives.
This study investigates the relationship between skill and value of ensemble seasonal streamflow...
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