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Gauging the ungauged basin: how many discharge measurements are needed?


Seibert, Jan; Beven, K J (2009). Gauging the ungauged basin: how many discharge measurements are needed? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 13(5):883-892.

Abstract

Runoff estimation in ungauged catchments is
probably one of the most basic and oldest tasks of hydrologists.
This long-standing issue has received increased attention
recently due to the PUB (Prediction in Ungauged
Basins) initiative. Given the challenges of predicting runoff
for ungauged catchments one might argue that the best course
of action is to take a few runoff measurements. In this study
we explored how implementing such a procedure might support
predictions in an ungauged basin. We used a number
of monitored Swedish catchments as hypothetical ungauged
basins where we pretended to start with no runoff data and
then added different sub-sets of the available data to constrain
a simple catchment model. These sub-sets consisted
of a limited number of single runoff measurements; in other
words these data represent what could be measured with limited
efforts in an ungauged basin. We used a Monte Carlo approach
and predicted runoff as a weighted ensemble mean of
simulations using acceptable parameter sets. We found that
the ensemble prediction clearly outperformed the predictions
using single parameter sets and that surprisingly little runoff
data was necessary to identify model parameterizations that
provided good results for the “ungauged” test periods. These
results indicated that a few runoff measurements can contain
much of the information content of continuous runoff time
series. However, the study also indicated that results may
differ significantly between catchments and also depend on
the days chosen for taking the measurements.

Runoff estimation in ungauged catchments is
probably one of the most basic and oldest tasks of hydrologists.
This long-standing issue has received increased attention
recently due to the PUB (Prediction in Ungauged
Basins) initiative. Given the challenges of predicting runoff
for ungauged catchments one might argue that the best course
of action is to take a few runoff measurements. In this study
we explored how implementing such a procedure might support
predictions in an ungauged basin. We used a number
of monitored Swedish catchments as hypothetical ungauged
basins where we pretended to start with no runoff data and
then added different sub-sets of the available data to constrain
a simple catchment model. These sub-sets consisted
of a limited number of single runoff measurements; in other
words these data represent what could be measured with limited
efforts in an ungauged basin. We used a Monte Carlo approach
and predicted runoff as a weighted ensemble mean of
simulations using acceptable parameter sets. We found that
the ensemble prediction clearly outperformed the predictions
using single parameter sets and that surprisingly little runoff
data was necessary to identify model parameterizations that
provided good results for the “ungauged” test periods. These
results indicated that a few runoff measurements can contain
much of the information content of continuous runoff time
series. However, the study also indicated that results may
differ significantly between catchments and also depend on
the days chosen for taking the measurements.

Citations

75 citations in Web of Science®
71 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:23 Dec 2009 10:18
Last Modified:21 Nov 2016 08:28
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:1027-5606
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-13-883-2009
Official URL:http://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/13/883/2009/hess-13-883-2009.html
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-24666

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