Articles | Volume 15, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1355–1368, 2011

Special issue: Climate, weather and hydrology of East African Highlands

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1355–1368, 2011

Research article 29 Apr 2011

Research article | 29 Apr 2011

Tailoring seasonal climate forecasts for hydropower operations

P. Block P. Block
  • International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USA

Abstract. Integration of seasonal precipitation forecasts into water resources operations and planning is practically nonexistent, even in regions of scarcity. This is often attributable to water manager's tendency to act in a risk averse manner, preferring to avoid consequences of poor forecasts, at the expense of unrealized benefits. Convincing demonstrations of forecast value are therefore desirable to support assimilation into practice. A dynamically linked system, including forecast, rainfall-runoff, and hydropower models, is applied to the upper Blue Nile basin in Ethiopia to compare benefits and reliability generated by actual forecasts against a climatology-based approach, commonly practiced in most water resources systems. Processing one hundred decadal sequences demonstrates superior forecast-based benefits in 68 cases, a respectable advancement, however benefits in a few forecast-based sequences are noticeably low, likely to dissuade manager's adoption. A hydropower sensitivity test reveals a propensity toward poor-decision making when forecasts over-predict wet conditions. Tailoring the precipitation forecast to highlight critical dry forecasts minimizes this inclination, resulting in 97% of the sequences favoring the forecast-based approach. Considering managerial risk preferences for the system, even risk-averse actions, if coupled with forecasts, exhibit superior benefits and reliability compared with risk-taking tendencies conditioned on climatology.