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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2057-2072, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-2057-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Special issue: Sub-seasonal to seasonal hydrological forecasting

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2057-2072, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-2057-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 03 Apr 2018

Research article | 03 Apr 2018

Skilful seasonal forecasts of streamflow over Europe?

Louise Arnal1,2, Hannah L. Cloke1,3,4,5, Elisabeth Stephens1, Fredrik Wetterhall2, Christel Prudhomme2,6,7, Jessica Neumann1, Blazej Krzeminski2, and Florian Pappenberger2 Louise Arnal et al.
  • 1Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AB, UK
  • 2European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Shinfield Park, Reading, RG6 9AX, UK
  • 3Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6BB, UK
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden
  • 5Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science, CNDS, Uppsala, 752 36, Sweden
  • 6Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
  • 7NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK

Abstract. This paper considers whether there is any added value in using seasonal climate forecasts instead of historical meteorological observations for forecasting streamflow on seasonal timescales over Europe. A Europe-wide analysis of the skill of the newly operational EFAS (European Flood Awareness System) seasonal streamflow forecasts (produced by forcing the Lisflood model with the ECMWF System 4 seasonal climate forecasts), benchmarked against the ensemble streamflow prediction (ESP) forecasting approach (produced by forcing the Lisflood model with historical meteorological observations), is undertaken. The results suggest that, on average, the System 4 seasonal climate forecasts improve the streamflow predictability over historical meteorological observations for the first month of lead time only (in terms of hindcast accuracy, sharpness and overall performance). However, the predictability varies in space and time and is greater in winter and autumn. Parts of Europe additionally exhibit a longer predictability, up to 7 months of lead time, for certain months within a season. In terms of hindcast reliability, the EFAS seasonal streamflow hindcasts are on average less skilful than the ESP for all lead times. The results also highlight the potential usefulness of the EFAS seasonal streamflow forecasts for decision-making (measured in terms of the hindcast discrimination for the lower and upper terciles of the simulated streamflow). Although the ESP is the most potentially useful forecasting approach in Europe, the EFAS seasonal streamflow forecasts appear more potentially useful than the ESP in some regions and for certain seasons, especially in winter for almost 40% of Europe. Patterns in the EFAS seasonal streamflow hindcast skill are however not mirrored in the System 4 seasonal climate hindcasts, hinting at the need for a better understanding of the link between hydrological and meteorological variables on seasonal timescales, with the aim of improving climate-model-based seasonal streamflow forecasting.

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This paper presents a new operational forecasting system (driven by atmospheric forecasts), predicting river flow in European rivers for the next 7 months. For the first month only, these river flow forecasts are, on average, better than predictions that do not make use of atmospheric forecasts. Overall, this forecasting system can predict whether abnormally high or low river flows will occur in the next 7 months in many parts of Europe, and could be valuable for various applications.
This paper presents a new operational forecasting system (driven by atmospheric forecasts),...
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