07 Oct 2022
07 Oct 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

To what extent does river routing matter in hydrological modeling?

Nicolás Cortés-Salazar1, Nicolás Vásquez1, Naoki Mizukami2, Pablo Mendoza1,3, and Ximena Vargas1 Nicolás Cortés-Salazar et al.
  • 1Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 2National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Advanced Mining Technology Center, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile

Abstract. Spatially-distributed hydrology and land surface models are typically applied in combination with river routing schemes that convert instantaneous runoff into streamflow. Nevertheless, the development of such schemes has been somehow disconnected from hydrologic model calibration research, although both seek to achieve more realistic streamflow simulations. In this paper, we seek to bridge this gap to understand the extent to which the configuration of routing schemes affects hydrologic model calibration results in water resources applications. To this end, we configure the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model, coupled with the mizuRoute routing model in the Cautín River basin (2770 km2), Chile. We use the Latin Hypercube Sampling (LHS) method to generate 3500 different VIC model parameters sets, for which basin-averaged runoff estimates are obtained directly (no routing case), and subsequently compared against outputs from four routing schemes (Unit Hydrograph, Lagrangian Kinematic Wave, Muskingum-Cunge and Diffusive Wave) applied with five different routing time steps (1, 3, 6, 12 and 24 hours). The results show that incorporating routing schemes may alter streamflow simulations at sub-daily, daily and even monthly time scales. The maximum Kling-Gupta Efficiency (KGE) obtained for daily streamflow increases from 0.73 (no routing) to 0.82 (for the best scheme), and such improvements do not depend on the routing time step. Moreover, the optimal parameter sets may differ depending on the routing scheme configuration, affecting the baseflow contribution to total runoff. Including routing models decreases streamflow values in frequency curves and lowers the segment with high discharge values in the flow duration curve (compared to the case without routing). More generally, the results presented here highlight the potential impacts of river routing implementations on water resources applications that involve hydrologic models and, in particular, parameter calibration.

Nicolás Cortés-Salazar et al.

Status: open (extended)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-338', Anonymous Referee #1, 02 Nov 2022 reply

Nicolás Cortés-Salazar et al.

Nicolás Cortés-Salazar et al.


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Short summary
This paper shows how important river models can be for water resources applications that involve hydrological models and, in particular, parameter calibration. To this end, we conduct numerical experiments in a pilot basin, using a combination of hydrologic model simulations obtained from a large sample of parameter sets, and different routing methods. We obtain that routing can affect streamflow simulations even at monthly time steps, the choice of parameters, and relevant streamflow metrics.