Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 5443-5457, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-5443-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
06 Nov 2017
Streamflow characteristics from modeled runoff time series – importance of calibration criteria selection
Sandra Pool1, Marc J. P. Vis1, Rodney R. Knight2, and Jan Seibert1,3,4 1Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
2U.S. Geological Survey Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center, 640 Grassmere Park, Suite 100, Nashville, TN 37211, USA
3Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
4Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract. Ecologically relevant streamflow characteristics (SFCs) of ungauged catchments are often estimated from simulated runoff of hydrologic models that were originally calibrated on gauged catchments. However, SFC estimates of the gauged donor catchments and subsequently the ungauged catchments can be substantially uncertain when models are calibrated using traditional approaches based on optimization of statistical performance metrics (e.g., Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency). An improved calibration strategy for gauged catchments is therefore crucial to help reduce the uncertainties of estimated SFCs for ungauged catchments. The aim of this study was to improve SFC estimates from modeled runoff time series in gauged catchments by explicitly including one or several SFCs in the calibration process. Different types of objective functions were defined consisting of the Nash–Sutcliffe model efficiency, single SFCs, or combinations thereof. We calibrated a bucket-type runoff model (HBV – Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenavdelning – model) for 25 catchments in the Tennessee River basin and evaluated the proposed calibration approach on 13 ecologically relevant SFCs representing major flow regime components and different flow conditions. While the model generally tended to underestimate the tested SFCs related to mean and high-flow conditions, SFCs related to low flow were generally overestimated. The highest estimation accuracies were achieved by a SFC-specific model calibration. Estimates of SFCs not included in the calibration process were of similar quality when comparing a multi-SFC calibration approach to a traditional model efficiency calibration. For practical applications, this implies that SFCs should preferably be estimated from targeted runoff model calibration, and modeled estimates need to be carefully interpreted.

Citation: Pool, S., Vis, M. J. P., Knight, R. R., and Seibert, J.: Streamflow characteristics from modeled runoff time series – importance of calibration criteria selection, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 5443-5457, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-5443-2017, 2017.
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Short summary
This modeling study explores the effect of different model calibration criteria on the accuracy of simulated streamflow characteristics (SFCs). The results imply that one has to consider significant uncertainties when simulated time series are used to derive SFCs that were not included in the calibration. Thus, we strongly recommend calibrating the runoff model explicitly for the SFCs of interest. Our study helps improve the estimation of SFCs for ungauged catchments based on runoff models.
This modeling study explores the effect of different model calibration criteria on the accuracy...
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