Articles | Volume 13, issue 11
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2069–2094, 2009

Special issue: The Earth's Critical Zone and hydropedology

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2069–2094, 2009

  04 Nov 2009

04 Nov 2009

Comparative predictions of discharge from an artificial catchment (Chicken Creek) using sparse data

H. M. Holländer1, T. Blume2, H. Bormann3, W. Buytaert4,*, G.B. Chirico5, J.-F. Exbrayat6, D. Gustafsson7, H. Hölzel8, P. Kraft6, C. Stamm9, S. Stoll10, G. Blöschl11, and H. Flühler12 H. M. Holländer et al.
  • 1Chair of Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus, 03046 Cottbus, Germany
  • 2Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, C4 2.25, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
  • 4School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
  • 5Dipartimento di ingegneria agraria e agronomia del territorio, Università di Napoli Federico II, 80055 Naples, Italy
  • 6Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management, University of Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
  • 7Department of Land and Water Resources Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology KTH, 10044 Stockholm, Sweden
  • 8Department of Geography, University of Bonn, 53113 Bonn, Germany
  • 9Department Environmental Chemistry, Eawag, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • 10Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich 8093 Zürich, Switzerland
  • 11Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, TU Vienna, 1040 Vienna, Austria
  • 12Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
  • *now at: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK

Abstract. Ten conceptually different models in predicting discharge from the artificial Chicken Creek catchment in North-East Germany were used for this study. Soil texture and topography data were given to the modellers, but discharge data was withheld. We compare the predictions with the measurements from the 6 ha catchment and discuss the conceptualization and parameterization of the models. The predictions vary in a wide range, e.g. with the predicted actual evapotranspiration ranging from 88 to 579 mm/y and the discharge from 19 to 346 mm/y. The predicted components of the hydrological cycle deviated systematically from the observations, which were not known to the modellers. Discharge was mainly predicted as subsurface discharge with little direct runoff. In reality, surface runoff was a major flow component despite the fairly coarse soil texture. The actual evapotranspiration (AET) and the ratio between actual and potential ET was systematically overestimated by nine of the ten models. None of the model simulations came even close to the observed water balance for the entire 3-year study period. The comparison indicates that the personal judgement of the modellers was a major source of the differences between the model results. The most important parameters to be presumed were the soil parameters and the initial soil-water content while plant parameterization had, in this particular case of sparse vegetation, only a minor influence on the results.