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Volume 22, issue 9 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5001-5019, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 27 Sep 2018

Research article | 27 Sep 2018

Improvement of the SWAT model for event-based flood simulation on a sub-daily timescale

Dan Yu1, Ping Xie1,2, Xiaohua Dong3,4, Xiaonong Hu5, Ji Liu3,4, Yinghai Li3,4, Tao Peng3,4, Haibo Ma3,4, Kai Wang6, and Shijin Xu6 Dan Yu et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan, 430072, China
  • 2Collaborative Innovation Center for Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights, Wuhan, 430072, China
  • 3College of Hydraulic & Environmental Engineering, China Three Gorges University, Yichang, 443002, China
  • 4Hubei Provincial Collaborative Innovation Center for Water Security, Wuhan, 430070, China
  • 5Institute of Groundwater and Earth Sciences, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, China
  • 6Hydrologic Bureau of Huaihe River Commission, Bengbu, 233001, China

Abstract. Flooding represents one of the most severe natural disasters threatening the development of human society. A model that is capable of predicting the hydrological responses in watershed with management practices during flood period would be a crucial tool for pre-assessment of flood reduction measures. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is a semi-distributed hydrological model that is well capable of runoff and water quality modeling under changed scenarios. The original SWAT model is a long-term yield model. However, a daily simulation time step and a continuous time marching limit the application of the SWAT model for detailed, event-based flood simulation. In addition, SWAT uses a basin level parameter that is fixed for the whole catchment to parameterize the unit hydrograph (UH), thereby ignoring the spatial heterogeneity among the sub-basins when adjusting the shape of the UHs. This paper developed a method to perform event-based flood simulation on a sub-daily timescale based on SWAT2005 and simultaneously improved the UH method used in the original SWAT model. First, model programs for surface runoff and water routing were modified to a sub-daily timescale. Subsequently, the entire loop structure was broken into discrete flood events in order to obtain a SWAT-EVENT model in which antecedent soil moisture and antecedent reach storage could be obtained from daily simulations of the original SWAT model. Finally, the original lumped UH parameter was refined into a set of distributed ones to reflect the spatial variability of the studied area. The modified SWAT-EVENT model was used in the Wangjiaba catchment located in the upper reaches of the Huaihe River in China. Daily calibration and validation procedures were first performed for the SWAT model with long-term flow data from 1990 to 2010, after which sub-daily (Δt = 2 h) calibration and validation in the SWAT-EVENT model were conducted with 24 flood events originating primarily during the flood seasons within the same time span. Daily simulation results demonstrated that the SWAT model could yield very good performances in reproducing streamflow for both whole year and flood period. Event-based flood simulation results simulated by the sub-daily SWAT-EVENT model indicated reliable performances, with ENS values varying from 0.67 to 0.95. The SWAT-EVENT model, compared to the SWAT model, particularly improved the simulation accuracies of the flood peaks. Furthermore, the SWAT-EVENT model results of the two UH parameterization methods indicated that the use of the distributed parameters resulted in a more reasonable UH characterization and better model fit compared to the lumped UH parameter.

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