Effects of rainfall data resolution on watershed-scale model performance in predicting runoff

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

The hydrologic simulation program-FORTRAN (HSPF) model is widely used to develop management strategies for water resources, but its effectiveness is limited by predictive uncertainties associated with model input data. This study evaluated the effect of rainfall data resolution on the model performance when predicting runoff. We examined hourly, 3-hourly, 12-hourly, and 24-hourly temporal resolutions, and spatial resolutions from seven to one rain gauges. We used a statistical sensitivity analysis to test the effect of resolution on model accuracy, and a dynamic sensitivity analysis to test the effect on model parameters. Our results indicate that the model performance reduces when using a coarser rainfall resolution. The model used the corresponding parameters to absorb the effect of various resolution changes and reduced their impact on the runoff simulations. We used the paired-samples t-test to examine the significance of the rainfall data resolution to the model parameters, which revealed that the model accuracy was more sensitive to the temporal resolution. Our statistical analysis of the dispersion examined the parameter values. It showed that one parameter was sensitive to temporal resolution and three parameters were sensitive to spatial resolution. This study provided useful information for determining HSPF model parameters using rainfall data at different resolutions.

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