Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Research article
21 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 21 Jun 2013

Comparative assessment of predictions in ungauged basins – Part 3: Runoff signatures in Austria

A. Viglione, J. Parajka, M. Rogger, J. L. Salinas, G. Laaha, M. Sivapalan, and G. Blöschl

Abstract. This is the third of a three-part paper series through which we assess the performance of runoff predictions in ungauged basins in a comparative way. Whereas the two previous papers by Parajka et al. (2013) and Salinas et al. (2013) assess the regionalisation performance of hydrographs and hydrological extremes on the basis of a comprehensive literature review of thousands of case studies around the world, in this paper we jointly assess prediction performance of a range of runoff signatures for a consistent and rich dataset. Daily runoff time series are predicted for 213 catchments in Austria by a regionalised rainfall–runoff model and by Top-kriging, a geostatistical estimation method that accounts for the river network hierarchy. From the runoff time-series, six runoff signatures are extracted: annual runoff, seasonal runoff, flow duration curves, low flows, high flows and runoff hydrographs. The predictive performance is assessed in terms of the bias, error spread and proportion of unexplained spatial variance of statistical measures of these signatures in cross-validation (blind testing) mode. Results of the comparative assessment show that, in Austria, the predictive performance increases with catchment area for both methods and for most signatures, it tends to increase with elevation for the regionalised rainfall–runoff model, while the dependence on climate characteristics is weaker. Annual and seasonal runoff can be predicted more accurately than all other signatures. The spatial variability of high flows in ungauged basins is the most difficult to estimate followed by the low flows. It also turns out that in this data-rich study in Austria, the geostatistical approach (Top-kriging) generally outperforms the regionalised rainfall–runoff model.