Technical note: Stochastic simulation of streamflow time series using phase randomization

Brunner, Manuela I.; Bárdossy, András; Furrer, Reinhard

Stochastically generated streamflow time series are widely used in water resource planning and management. Such series represent sets of plausible yet unobserved streamflow realizations which should reproduce the main characteristics of observed data. These characteristics include the distribution of daily streamflow values and their temporal correlation as expressed by short- and long-range dependence. Existing streamflow generation approaches have mainly focused on the time domain, even though simulation in the frequency domain provides good properties. These properties comprise the simulation of both short- and long-range dependence as well as extension to multiple sites. Simulation in the frequency domain is based on the randomization of the phases of the Fourier transformation. We here combine phase randomization simulation with a flexible, four-parameter kappa distribution, which allows for the extrapolation to as yet unobserved low and high flows. The simulation approach consists of seven steps: (1) fitting the theoretical kappa distribution, (2) normalization and deseasonalization of the marginal distribution, (3) Fourier transformation, (4) random phase generation, (5) inverse Fourier transformation, (6) back transformation, and (7) simulation. The simulation approach is applicable to both individual and multiple sites. It was applied to and validated on a set of four catchments in Switzerland. Our results show that the stochastic streamflow generator based on phase randomization produces realistic streamflow time series with respect to distributional properties and temporal correlation. However, cross-correlation among sites was in some cases found to be underestimated. The approach can be recommended as a flexible tool for various applications such as the dimensioning of reservoirs or the assessment of drought persistence.


  1. Stochastic simulation of streamflow time series for individual and multiple sites by combining phase randomization and the kappa distribution.

  2. Simulated time series reproduce temporal correlation, seasonal distributions, and extremes of observed time series.

  3. Simulation procedure suitable for use in water resource planning and management.



Brunner, Manuela I. / Bárdossy, András / Furrer, Reinhard: Technical note: Stochastic simulation of streamflow time series using phase randomization. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


Rechteinhaber: Manuela I. Brunner et al.

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