Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-244
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-244

  28 May 2021

28 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Can we use precipitation isotope outputs of Isotopic General Circulation Models to improve hydrological modeling in large mountainous catchments on the Tibetan Plateau?

Yi Nan1, Zhihua He2, Fuqiang Tian1, Zhongwang Wei3, and Lide Tian4 Yi Nan et al.
  • 1Department of Hydraulic Engineering, State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
  • 2Center for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • 3Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
  • 4Institute of International Rivers and Eco-security, Yunnan University, Kunming, China

Abstract. Issues related to large uncertainty and parameter equifinality have posed big challenges for hydrological modeling in cold regions where runoff generation processes are particularly complex. Tracer-aided hydrological models coupling modules to simulate the transportation and fractionation of water stable isotope are increasingly used to constrain parameter uncertainty and refine the parameterizations of specific hydrological processes in cold regions. However, commonly unavailability of site sampling of spatially-distributed precipitation isotope hampers the practical applications of tracer-aided models in large scale catchments. This study, taken the precipitation isotope data (isoGSM) derived from the Isotopic General Circulation Models (iGCM) as an example, explored its utility in driving a tracer-aided hydrological model in the Yarlung Tsangpo River basin (YTR, around 2 × 105 km2) on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). The isoGSM product was first corrected based on the biases between gridded precipitation isotope estimates and limited site sampling measurements. Model simulations driven by the corrected isoGSM data were then compared with those forced by spatially interpolated precipitation isotope from site sampling measurements. Our results indicated that: (1) spatial precipitation isotope derived from the isoGSM data helped to reduce modeling uncertainty and improve parameter identifiability in a large mountainous catchment on the TP, in comparison to a calibration method using discharge and snow cover area fraction without any information of water isotope; (2) model parameters estimated by the corrected isoGSM data presented higher transferability to nested sub-basins and produced higher model performance in the validation period than that estimated by the interpolated precipitation isotope data from site sampling measurements; (3) model calibration procedure forced by the corrected isoGSM data successfully rejected parameter sets that overestimated glacier melt contribution and gave more reliable contributions of runoff components, indicating the corrected isoGSM data served as a better choice to provide informative spatial precipitation isotope than the interpolated data from site sampling measurements at macro scale. This work suggested plausible utility of combining isoGSM data with measurements from a sparse sampling network in improving hydrological modeling in large mountainous catchments.

Yi Nan et al.

Status: open (until 26 Jul 2021)

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Yi Nan et al.

Yi Nan et al.

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Short summary
Hydrological modelling has large problem of uncertainty in cold regions. Tracer-aided hydrological models are increasingly used to reduce uncertainty and refine the parameterizations of hydrological processes, with limited application in large basins due to the unavailability of spatially-distributed precipitation isotope. This study explored the utility of Isotopic General Circulation Models in driving a tracer-aided hydrological model in a large basin on the Tibetan Plateau.