Articles | Volume 18, issue 1
Research article
30 Jan 2014
Research article |  | 30 Jan 2014

Hydrological model calibration for derived flood frequency analysis using stochastic rainfall and probability distributions of peak flows

U. Haberlandt and I. Radtke

Abstract. Derived flood frequency analysis allows the estimation of design floods with hydrological modeling for poorly observed basins considering change and taking into account flood protection measures. There are several possible choices regarding precipitation input, discharge output and consequently the calibration of the model. The objective of this study is to compare different calibration strategies for a hydrological model considering various types of rainfall input and runoff output data sets and to propose the most suitable approach. Event based and continuous, observed hourly rainfall data as well as disaggregated daily rainfall and stochastically generated hourly rainfall data are used as input for the model. As output, short hourly and longer daily continuous flow time series as well as probability distributions of annual maximum peak flow series are employed. The performance of the strategies is evaluated using the obtained different model parameter sets for continuous simulation of discharge in an independent validation period and by comparing the model derived flood frequency distributions with the observed one. The investigations are carried out for three mesoscale catchments in northern Germany with the hydrological model HEC-HMS (Hydrologic Engineering Center's Hydrologic Modeling System). The results show that (I) the same type of precipitation input data should be used for calibration and application of the hydrological model, (II) a model calibrated using a small sample of extreme values works quite well for the simulation of continuous time series with moderate length but not vice versa, and (III) the best performance with small uncertainty is obtained when stochastic precipitation data and the observed probability distribution of peak flows are used for model calibration. This outcome suggests to calibrate a hydrological model directly on probability distributions of observed peak flows using stochastic rainfall as input if its purpose is the application for derived flood frequency analysis.