Articles | Volume 14, issue 8
24 Aug 2010
 | 24 Aug 2010

A past discharge assimilation system for ensemble streamflow forecasts over France – Part 2: Impact on the ensemble streamflow forecasts

G. Thirel, E. Martin, J.-F. Mahfouf, S. Massart, S. Ricci, F. Regimbeau, and F. Habets

Abstract. The use of ensemble streamflow forecasts is developing in the international flood forecasting services. Ensemble streamflow forecast systems can provide more accurate forecasts and useful information about the uncertainty of the forecasts, thus improving the assessment of risks. Nevertheless, these systems, like all hydrological forecasts, suffer from errors on initialization or on meteorological data, which lead to hydrological prediction errors. This article, which is the second part of a 2-part article, concerns the impacts of initial states, improved by a streamflow assimilation system, on an ensemble streamflow prediction system over France. An assimilation system was implemented to improve the streamflow analysis of the SAFRAN-ISBA-MODCOU (SIM) hydro-meteorological suite, which initializes the ensemble streamflow forecasts at Météo-France. This assimilation system, using the Best Linear Unbiased Estimator (BLUE) and modifying the initial soil moisture states, showed an improvement of the streamflow analysis with low soil moisture increments. The final states of this suite were used to initialize the ensemble streamflow forecasts of Météo-France, which are based on the SIM model and use the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 10-day Ensemble Prediction System (EPS). Two different configurations of the assimilation system were used in this study: the first with the classical SIM model and the second using improved soil physics in ISBA. The effects of the assimilation system on the ensemble streamflow forecasts were assessed for these two configurations, and a comparison was made with the original (i.e. without data assimilation and without the improved physics) ensemble streamflow forecasts. It is shown that the assimilation system improved most of the statistical scores usually computed for the validation of ensemble predictions (RMSE, Brier Skill Score and its decomposition, Ranked Probability Skill Score, False Alarm Rate, etc.), especially for the first few days of the time range. The assimilation was slightly more efficient for small basins than for large ones.