Articles | Volume 17, issue 5
Research article
21 May 2013
Research article |  | 21 May 2013

Evaluation of numerical weather prediction model precipitation forecasts for short-term streamflow forecasting purpose

D. L. Shrestha, D. E. Robertson, Q. J. Wang, T. C. Pagano, and H. A. P. Hapuarachchi

Abstract. The quality of precipitation forecasts from four Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) models is evaluated over the Ovens catchment in Southeast Australia. Precipitation forecasts are compared with observed precipitation at point and catchment scales and at different temporal resolutions. The four models evaluated are the Australian Community Climate Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS) including ACCESS-G with a 80 km resolution, ACCESS-R 37.5 km, ACCESS-A 12 km, and ACCESS-VT 5 km.

The skill of the NWP precipitation forecasts varies considerably between rain gauging stations. In general, high spatial resolution (ACCESS-A and ACCESS-VT) and regional (ACCESS-R) NWP models overestimate precipitation in dry, low elevation areas and underestimate in wet, high elevation areas. The global model (ACCESS-G) consistently underestimates the precipitation at all stations and the bias increases with station elevation. The skill varies with forecast lead time and, in general, it decreases with the increasing lead time. When evaluated at finer spatial and temporal resolution (e.g. 5 km, hourly), the precipitation forecasts appear to have very little skill. There is moderate skill at short lead times when the forecasts are averaged up to daily and/or catchment scale. The precipitation forecasts fail to produce a diurnal cycle shown in observed precipitation. Significant sampling uncertainty in the skill scores suggests that more data are required to get a reliable evaluation of the forecasts. The non-smooth decay of skill with forecast lead time can be attributed to diurnal cycle in the observation and sampling uncertainty.

Future work is planned to assess the benefits of using the NWP rainfall forecasts for short-term streamflow forecasting. Our findings here suggest that it is necessary to remove the systematic biases in rainfall forecasts, particularly those from low resolution models, before the rainfall forecasts can be used for streamflow forecasting.