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

  21 Oct 2020

21 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Examining cross-scale influences of forcing resolutions in a hillslope-resolving, integrated hydrologic model

Miguel A. Aguayo1, Alejandro N. Flores2, James P. McNamara2, Hans-Peter Marshall2, and Jodi Mead2 Miguel A. Aguayo et al.
  • 1Universidad Católica de Temuco, Montt 56, Temuco, Chile
  • 2Boise State University, 190 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725

Abstract. Water management in semiarid regions of the western United States requires accurate and timely knowledge of runoff generated by snowmelt. This information is used to plan reservoir releases for downstream users and hydrologic models play an important role in estimating the volume of snow stored in mountain watersheds that serve as source waters for downstream reservoirs. Physically based, integrated hydrologic models are used to develop spatiotemporally dynamic estimates of hydrologic states and fluxes based on understanding of the underlying biophysics of hydrologic response. Yet this class of models are associated with many issues that give rise to significant uncertainties in key hydrologic variables of interest like snow water storage and streamflow. Underlying sources of uncertainty include difficulties in parameterizing processes associated with nonlinearities of some processes, as well as from the large variability in the characteristic spatial and temporal scale of atmospheric forcing and land-surface water and energy balance and groundwater processes. Scale issues, in particular, can introduce systematic biases in integrated atmospheric and hydrologic modeling. Reconciling these discrepancies while maintaining computational tractability remains a fundamental challenge in integrated hydrologic modeling. Here we investigate the hydrologic impact of discrepancies between distributed meteorological forcing data exhibiting a range of spatial scales consistent with a variety of numerical weather prediction models when used to force an integrated hydrologic model associated with a corresponding range of spatial resolutions characteristic of distributed hydrologic modeling. To achieve this, we design and conduct a total of twelve numerical modeling experiments that seek to quantify the impact of applied resolution of atmospheric forcings on simulated hillslope-scale hydrologic state variables. The experiments are arranged in such way to assess the impact of four different atmospheric forcing resolutions (i.e., interpolated 30 m, 1 km, 3 km and 9 km) on two hydrologic variables, snow water equivalent and soil water storage, arranged in three hydrologic spatial resolution (i.e., 30 m, 90 m and 250 m). Results show spatial patterns in snow water equivalent driven by atmospheric forcing in hillslope-scale simulations and patterns mostly driven by topographical characteristics (i.e., slope and aspect) on coarser simulations. Similar patterns are observed in soil water storage however, in addition to that, large errors are encountered primarily in riparian areas of the watershed on coarser simulations. The Weather Research Forecasting (WRF) model is used to develop the environmental forcing variables required as input to the integrated hydrologic model. WRF is an open source, community supported coupled land-atmosphere model capable of capturing spatial scales that permit convection. The integrated hydrologic modeling framework used in this work coincides with the ParFlow open-source surface-subsurface hydrology model. This work has important implications for the use of atmospheric and integrated hydrologic models in remote and ungauged areas. In particular, this work has potential ramifications for the design and development of observing system simulation experiments (OSSEs) in complex and snow-dominated landscapes. OSSEs are critical in constraining the performance characteristics of Earth-observing satellites.

Miguel A. Aguayo et al.

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Miguel A. Aguayo et al.

Miguel A. Aguayo et al.


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