Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
20 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 20 Sep 2012

Impact of precipitation and land biophysical variables on the simulated discharge of European and Mediterranean rivers

C. Szczypta, B. Decharme, D. Carrer, J.-C. Calvet, S. Lafont, S. Somot, S. Faroux, and E. Martin

Abstract. This study investigates the impact on river discharge simulations of errors in the precipitation forcing, together with changes in the representation of vegetation variables and of plant transpiration. The most recent European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalysis (ERA-Interim) is used to drive the Interactions between Soil, Biosphere, and Atmosphere–Total Runoff Integrating Pathways (ISBA-TRIP) continental hydrological system over Europe and the Mediterranean basin over the 1991–2008 period. As ERA-Interim tends to underestimate precipitation, a number of precipitation corrections are proposed. In particular, the monthly Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) precipitation product is used to bias-correct the 3-hourly ERA-Interim estimates. This correction markedly improves the match between the ISBA-TRIP simulations and the river discharge observations from the Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC), at 150 gauging stations. The impact on TRIP river discharge simulations of various representations of the evapotranspiration in the ISBA land surface model is investigated as well: ISBA is used together with its upgraded carbon flux version (ISBA-A-gs). The latter is either driven by the satellite-derived climatology of the Leaf Area Index (LAI) used by ISBA, or performs prognostic LAI simulations. The ISBA-A-gs model, with or without dynamically simulated LAI, allows a better representation of river discharge at low water levels. On the other hand, ISBA-A-gs does not perform as well as the original ISBA model at springtime.