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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-192
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-192
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  11 May 2020

11 May 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Flood hazard and change impact assessments may profit from rethinking model calibration strategies

Manuela I. Brunner1, Lieke A. Melsen2, Andrew W. Wood1,3, Oldrich Rakovec4,5, Naoki Mizukami1, Wouter J. M. Knoben6, and Martyn P. Clark6 Manuela I. Brunner et al.
  • 1Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 3Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4Department Computational Hydrosystems, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 5Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Praha – Suchdol, Czech Republic
  • 6University of Saskatchewan Coldwater Laboratory, Canmore, Canada

Abstract. Floods cause large damages, especially if they affect large regions. Assessments of current, local and regional flood hazards and their future changes often involve the use of hydrologic models. However, uncertainties in simulated floods can be considerable and yield unreliable hazard and climate change impact assessments. A reliable hydrologic model ideally reproduces both local flood characteristics and spatial aspects of flooding, which is, however, not guaranteed especially when using standard model calibration metrics. In this paper we investigate how flood timing, magnitude and spatial variability are represented by an ensemble of hydrological models when calibrated on streamflow using the Kling–Gupta efficiency metric, an increasingly common metric of hydrologic model performance. We compare how four well-known models (SAC, HBV, VIC, and mHM) represent (1) flood characteristics and their spatial patterns; and (2) how they translate changes in meteorologic variables that trigger floods into changes in flood magnitudes. Our results show that both the modeling of local and spatial flood characteristics is challenging. They further show that changes in precipitation and temperature are not necessarily well translated to changes in flood flow, which makes local and regional flood hazard assessments even more difficult for future conditions. We conclude that models calibrated on integrated metrics such as the Kling–Gupta efficiency alone have limited reliability in flood hazard assessments, in particular in regional and future assessments, and suggest the development of alternative process-based and spatial evaluation metrics.

Manuela I. Brunner et al.

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Manuela I. Brunner et al.

Manuela I. Brunner et al.

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Short summary
Assessments of current, local and regional flood hazards and their future changes often involve the use of hydrologic models. A reliable model ideally reproduces both local flood characteristics and spatial aspects of flooding. In this paper we investigate how such characteristics are represented by hydrologic models. Our results show that both the modeling of local and spatial flood characteristics is challenging and suggest that the development of new evaluation metrics is necessary.
Assessments of current, local and regional flood hazards and their future changes often involve...
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