Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
17 Jan 2007
17 Jan 2007

Effect of spatial distribution of daily rainfall on interior catchment response of a distributed hydrological model

J. M. Schuurmans and M. F. P. Bierkens

Abstract. We investigate the effect of spatial variability of daily rainfall on soil moisture, groundwater level and discharge using a physically-based, fully-distributed hydrological model. This model is currently in use with the district water board and is considered to represent reality. We focus on the effect of rainfall spatial variability on day-to-day variability of the interior catchment response, as well as on its effect on the general hydrological behaviour of the catchment. The study is performed in a flat rural catchment (135 km2) in the Netherlands, where the climate is semi-humid (average precipitation 800 mm/year, evapotranspiration 550 mm/year) and rainfall is predominantly stratiform (i.e. large scale). Both range-corrected radar data (resolution 2.5×2.5 km2) as well as data from a dense network of 30 raingauges are used, observed for the period March–October 2004. Eight different rainfall scenarios, either spatially distributed or spatially uniform, are used as input for the hydrological model. The main conclusions from this study are: (i) using a single raingauge as rainfall input carries a great risk for the prediction of discharge, groundwater level and soil moisture, especially if the raingauge is situated outside the catchment; (ii) taking into account the spatial variability of rainfall instead of using areal average rainfall as input for the model is needed to get insight into the day-to-day spatial variability of discharge, groundwater level and soil moisture content; (iii) to get insight into the general behaviour of the hydrological system it is sufficient to use correct predictions of areal average rainfall over the catchment.