Articles | Volume 16, issue 2
Research article
09 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 09 Feb 2012

Analysis of projected hydrological behavior of catchments based on signature indices

M. C. Casper, G. Grigoryan, O. Gronz, O. Gutjahr, G. Heinemann, R. Ley, and A. Rock

Abstract. To precisely map the changes in hydrologic response of catchments (e.g. water balance, reactivity or extremes), we need sensitive and interpretable indicators. In this study we defined nine hydrologically meaningful signature indices: five indices were sampled on the flow duration curve, four indices were closely linked to the distribution of event runoff coefficients. We applied these signature indices to the output from a hydrologic catchment model for three different catchments located in the Nahe basin (Western Germany) to detect differences in runoff behavior resulting from different meteorological input data. The models were driven by measured and simulated (COSMO-CLM) meteorological data. It could be shown that the application of signature indices is a very sensitive tool to assess differences in simulated runoff behavior resulting from climatic data sets of different sources. Specifically, the selected signature indices allow assessing changes in water balance, vertical water distribution, reactivity, seasonality and runoff generation. These indices showed that the hydrological model is very sensitive to biases in mean and spatio-temporal distribution of precipitation and temperature because it acts as a filter for the meteorological input. Besides model calibration and model structural deficits, we found that bias correction of temperature fields and further adjustment of bias correction of precipitation fields is absolutely essential. We conclude that signature indices can act as indirect "efficiency measures" or "similarity measures" for output from regional or local climate models.