Articles | Volume 13, issue 2
18 Feb 2009
 | 18 Feb 2009

Improvement, calibration and validation of a distributed hydrological model over France

P. Quintana Seguí, E. Martin, F. Habets, and J. Noilhan

Abstract. The hydrometeorological model SAFRAN-ISBA-MODCOU (SIM) computes water and energy budgets on the land surface and riverflows and the level of several aquifers at the scale of France. SIM is composed of a meteorological analysis system (SAFRAN), a land surface model (ISBA), and a hydrogeological model (MODCOU). In this study, an exponential profile of hydraulic conductivity at saturation is introduced to the model and its impact analysed. It is also studied how calibration modifies the performance of the model. A very simple method of calibration is implemented and applied to the parameters of hydraulic conductivity and subgrid runoff. The study shows that a better description of the hydraulic conductivity of the soil is important to simulate more realistic discharges. It also shows that the calibrated model is more robust than the original SIM. In fact, the calibration mainly affects the processes related to the dynamics of the flow (drainage and runoff), and the rest of relevant processes (like evaporation) remain stable. It is also proven that it is only worth introducing the new empirical parameterization of hydraulic conductivity if it is accompanied by a calibration of its parameters, otherwise the simulations can be degraded. In conclusion, it is shown that the new parameterization is necessary to obtain good simulations. Calibration is a tool that must be used to improve the performance of distributed models like SIM that have some empirical parameters.