08 Feb 2022
08 Feb 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Assessing the influence of water sampling strategy on the performance of tracer-aided hydrological modeling in a mountainous basin 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, 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. Tracer-aided hydrological models integrating water isotope module into the simulation of runoff generation are useful tools to reduce uncertainty of hydrological modeling in cold basins that are featured by complex runoff processes and multiple runoff components. However, there is little guidance on the strategy of field water sampling for isotope analysis to run tracer-aided hydrological models, which is especially important for large mountainous basins on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) where field water sampling work is highly costly. This study conducted a set of numerical experiments based on the THREW-T model to evaluate the reliance of the tracer-aided modeling performance on the availability of site measurements of water isotope in the Yarlung Tsangpo River (YTR) basin on the TP. Data conditions considered in the numerical experiments included the availability of glacier meltwater isotope measurement, quantity of site measurements of precipitation isotope, and the variable collecting strategies for stream water sample. Our results suggested that: (1) In high-mountain basins where glacier meltwater samples for isotope analysis are not available, estimating glacier meltwater isotope by an offset parameter from the precipitation isotope is a feasible way to force the tracer-aided hydrological model. Using a set of glacier meltwater δ18O that were 2 ‰~9 ‰ lower than the mean precipitation δ18O resulted in only small changes in the model performance and the quantifications of contributions of runoff components (CRCs, smaller than 5 %) to streamflow in the YTR basin; (2) strategy of field sampling for site precipitation to correct the global gridded isotope product of isoGSM for model forcing should be carefully designed. Collecting precipitation samples at sites falling in the same altitude tends to be worse at representing the ground pattern of precipitation δ18O over the basin than collecting precipitation samples from sites in a range of altitudes; (3) Collecting weekly stream water samples at multiple sites in the wet and warm seasons is the optimal strategy for calibrating and evaluating a tracer-aided hydrological model in the YTR basin. It is highly recommended to increase the number of stream water sampling sites rather than spending resource on extensive sampling of stream water at a sole site for multiple years. These results provide important implications for collecting site measurements of water isotope for running tracer-aided hydrological models to improve quantifications of CRCs in the high-mountain basins.

Yi Nan et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-44', Christian Birkel, 24 Feb 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2022-44', Anonymous Referee #2, 16 Apr 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Yi Nan, 17 Apr 2022
  • RC3: 'Comment on hess-2022-44', Anonymous Referee #3, 08 May 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Yi Nan, 09 May 2022

Yi Nan et al.

Yi Nan et al.


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Short summary
Tracer-aided hydrological model is useful tool to reduce uncertainty of hydrological modeling in cold basins, but there is little guidance on the sampling strategy for isotope analysis, which is important for large mountainous basins. This study evaluated the reliance of the tracer-aided modeling performance on the availability of isotope data in the Yarlung Tsangpo River basin and provide implications for collecting water isotope data for running tracer-aided hydrological models.