Impact of spatial data resolution on simulated catchment water balances and model performance of the multi-scale TOPLATS model
Abstract. This paper analyses the effect of spatial input data resolution on the simulated water balances and flow components using the multi-scale hydrological model TOPLATS. A data set of 25m resolution of the central German Dill catchment (693 km2) is used for investigation. After an aggregation of digital elevation model, soil map and land use classification to 50 m, 75 m, 100 m, 150 m, 200 m, 300 m, 500 m, 1000 m and 2000 m, water balances and water flow components are calculated for the entire Dill catchment as well as for 3 subcatchments without any recalibration. The study shows that model performance measures and simulated water balances almost remain constant for most of the aggregation steps for all investigated catchments. Slight differences in the simulated water balances and statistical quality measures occur for single catchments at the resolution of 50 m to 500 m (e.g. 0–3% for annual stream flow), significant differences at the resolution of 1000 m and 2000 m (e.g. 2–12% for annual stream flow). These differences can be explained by the fact that the statistics of certain input data (land use data in particular as well as soil physical characteristics) changes significantly at these spatial resolutions. The impact of smoothing the relief by aggregation occurs continuously but is barely reflected by the simulation results. To study the effect of aggregation of land use data in detail, in addition to current land use the effect of aggregation on the water balance calculations based on three different land use scenarios is investigated. Land use scenarios were available aiming on economic optimisation of agricultural and forestry practices at different field sizes (0.5 ha, 1.5 ha and 5.0 ha). The changes in water balance terms, induced by aggregation of the land use scenarios, are comparable with respect to catchment water balances compared to the current land use. A correlation analysis between statistics of input data and simulated annual water fluxes only in some cases reveals systematically high correlation coefficients for all investigated catchments and data sets (e.g. actual evapotranspiration is correlated to land use, surface runoff generation is correlated to soil properties). Predominantly the correlation between catchment properties (e.g. topographic index, transmissivity, land use) and simulated water flows varies from catchment to catchment. Catchment specific properties determine correlations between properties and fluxes, but do not influence the effect of data aggregation. This study indicates that an aggregation of input data for the calculation of regional water balances using TOPLATS type models leads to significant errors from a resolution exceeding 500 m. Correlating statistics of input data and simulation results indicates that a meaningful aggregation of data should in the first instance aim on preserving the areal fractions of land use classes.