Articles | Volume 3, issue 1
Special issue:
31 Mar 1999
31 Mar 1999

Analysis of aggregation and disaggregation effects for grid-based hydrological models and the development of improved precipitation disaggregation procedures for GCMs

H. S. Wheater, T. J. Jolley, C. Onof, N. Mackay, and R. E. Chandler

Abstract. Appropriate representation of hydrological processes within atmospheric General Circulation Models (GCMs) is important with respect to internal model dynamics (e.g. surface feedback effects on atmospheric fluxes, continental runoff production) and to simulation of terrestrial impacts of climate change. However, at the scale of a GCM grid-square, several methodological problems arise. Spatial disaggregation of grid-square average climatological parameters is required in particular to produce appropriate point intensities from average precipitation. Conversely, aggregation of land surface heterogeneity is necessary for grid-scale or catchment scale application.
The performance of grid-based hydrological models is evaluated for two large (104km2) UK catchments. Simple schemes, using sub-grid average of individual land use at 40 km scale and with no calibration, perform well at the annual time-scale and, with the addition of a (calibrated) routing component, at the daily and monthly time-scale. Decoupling of hillslope and channel routing does not necessarily improve performance or identifiability. Scale dependence is investigated through application of distribution functions for rainfall and soil moisture at 100 km scale. The results depend on climate, but show interdependence of the representation of sub-grid rainfall and soil moisture distribution.
Rainfall distribution is analysed directly using radar rainfall data from the UK and the Arkansas Red River, USA. Among other properties, the scale dependence of spatial coverage upon radar pixel resolution and GCM grid-scale, as well as the serial correlation of coverages are investigated. This leads to a revised methodology for GCM application, as a simple extension of current procedures.
A new location-based approach using an image processing technique is then presented, to allow for the preservation of the spatial memory of the process.

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