Articles | Volume 16, issue 4
Research article
11 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 11 Apr 2012

Assessing rating-curve uncertainty and its effects on hydraulic model calibration

A. Domeneghetti, A. Castellarin, and A. Brath

Abstract. This study considers the overall uncertainty affecting river flow measurements and proposes a framework for analysing the uncertainty of rating-curves and its effects on the calibration of numerical hydraulic models. The uncertainty associated with rating-curves is often considered negligible relative to other approximations affecting hydraulic studies, even though recent studies point out that rating-curves uncertainty may be significant. This study refers to a ~240 km reach of River Po and simulates ten different historical flood events by means of a quasi-twodimensional (quasi-2-D) hydraulic model in order to generate 50 synthetic measurement campaigns (5 campaigns per event) at the gauged cross-section of interest (i.e. Cremona streamgauge). For each synthetic campaign, two different procedures for rating-curve estimation are applied after corrupting simulated discharges according to the indications reported in the literature on accuracy of discharge measurements, and the uncertainty associated with each procedure is then quantified. To investigate the propagation of rating-curve uncertainty on the calibration of Manning's roughness coefficients further model simulations are run downstream Cremona's cross-section. Results highlight the significant role of extrapolation errors and how rating-curve uncertainty may be responsible for estimating unrealistic roughness coefficients. Finally, the uncertainty of these coefficients is analysed and discussed relative to the variability of Manning's coefficient reported in the literature for large natural streams.