Articles | Volume 21, issue 6
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 3125–3144, 2017
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 3125–3144, 2017

Research article 29 Jun 2017

Research article | 29 Jun 2017

Calibration of a large-scale hydrological model using satellite-based soil moisture and evapotranspiration products

Patricia López López1,2, Edwin H. Sutanudjaja2, Jaap Schellekens1, Geert Sterk2, and Marc F. P. Bierkens2,3 Patricia López López et al.
  • 1Inland Water Systems Unit, Deltares, Delft, the Netherlands
  • 2Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 3Subsurface and Groundwater Systems Unit, Deltares, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Abstract. A considerable number of river basins around the world lack sufficient ground observations of hydro-meteorological data for effective water resources assessment and management. Several approaches can be developed to increase the quality and availability of data in these poorly gauged or ungauged river basins; among them, the use of Earth observations products has recently become promising. Earth observations of various environmental variables can be used potentially to increase knowledge about the hydrological processes in the basin and to improve streamflow model estimates, via assimilation or calibration. The present study aims to calibrate the large-scale hydrological model PCRaster GLOBal Water Balance (PCR-GLOBWB) using satellite-based products of evapotranspiration and soil moisture for the Moroccan Oum er Rbia River basin. Daily simulations at a spatial resolution of 5  ×  5 arcmin are performed with varying parameters values for the 32-year period 1979–2010. Five different calibration scenarios are inter-compared: (i) reference scenario using the hydrological model with the standard parameterization, (ii) calibration using in situ-observed discharge time series, (iii) calibration using the Global Land Evaporation Amsterdam Model (GLEAM) actual evapotranspiration time series, (iv) calibration using ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) surface soil moisture time series and (v) step-wise calibration using GLEAM actual evapotranspiration and ESA CCI surface soil moisture time series. The impact on discharge estimates of precipitation in comparison with model parameters calibration is investigated using three global precipitation products, including ERA-Interim (EI), WATCH Forcing methodology applied to ERA-Interim reanalysis data (WFDEI) and Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation data by merging gauge, satellite and reanalysis data (MSWEP).

Results show that GLEAM evapotranspiration and ESA CCI soil moisture may be used for model calibration resulting in reasonable discharge estimates (NSE values from 0.5 to 0.75), although better model performance is achieved when the model is calibrated with in situ streamflow observations. Independent calibration based on only evapotranspiration or soil moisture observations improves model predictions to a lesser extent. Precipitation input affects discharge estimates more than calibrating model parameters. The use of WFDEI precipitation leads to the lowest model performances. Apart from the in situ discharge calibration scenario, the highest discharge improvement is obtained when EI and MSWEP precipitation products are used in combination with a step-wise calibration approach based on evapotranspiration and soil moisture observations. This study opens up the possibility of using globally available Earth observations and reanalysis products of precipitation, evapotranspiration and soil moisture in large-scale hydrological models to estimate discharge at a river basin scale.

Short summary
We perform various calibration experiments of a large-scale hydrological model using satellite-based products of evapotranspiration and soil moisture in the Oum Er Rbia River basin in Morocco. In addition, we study the impact on discharge estimates of three global precipitation products in comparison with model parameter calibration. Results show that evapotranspiration and soil moisture observations can be used for model calibration, resulting in discharge estimates of acceptable accuracy.