Skip to main content

Evaluation of distributed process-based hydrologic model performance using only a priori information to define model inputs...

by Soumendra N Bhanja, Ethan T Coon, Dan Lu, Scott L Painter
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Hydrology
Publication Date
Page Numbers
129176 to 129176

Fully distributed, integrated surface–subsurface hydrological models (ISSHMs) have seen renewed interest due to availability of better software, high performance computing facilities, and high-resolution, spatially extensive data products. ISSHMs are valuable as tools for advancing system understanding as they can resolve multiple processes defined on the plot scale including three-dimensional interaction of surface water and groundwater. Here, we evaluated the performance of an ISSHM, the Advanced Terrestrial Simulator (ATS), on seven diverse catchments across the continental US using widely available data products to define model inputs without calibration. We compare the ATS-simulated streamflow and evapotranspiration with gauge observations and MODIS-derived evapotranspiration, respectively. Using the Kling-Gupta Efficiency (KGE) as metric, ATS with default data products performed reasonably well at 6 of 7 catchments for streamflow. However, in one of those 6 catchments ATS had poor performance on baseflow and ATS’s overall performance was thus judged to be inadequate despite the acceptable KGE. ATS performance for evapotranspiration was good in all 7 catchments using default data products. In the two catchments where ATS streamflow performance using default data products was not acceptable, the performance was significantly improved by using local information on subsurface properties below the soil. We also compare the model-simulated streamflow and evapotranspiration with the Sacramento soil moisture accounting (SAC-SMA) model, a semi-distributed model that was calibrated on a catchment-by-catchment basis. Uncalibrated ATS performance is comparable to the calibrated SAC-SMA model in terms of streamflow while ATS performance is similar to or better (much better in certain catchments) in reproducing MODIS-derived evapotranspiration. Reasonably good performance of ATS without catchment-specific calibration provides new confidence in the ISSHM class of models and community data products as tools for advancing understanding of watershed function in a changing environment.