A comparative assessment of rainfall–runoff modelling against regional flow duration curves for ungauged catchments
Rainfall–runoff modelling has long been a special subject in hydrological sciences, but identifying behavioural parameters in ungauged catchments is still challenging. In this study, we comparatively evaluated the performance of the local calibration of a rainfall–runoff model against regional flow duration curves (FDCs), which is a seemingly alternative method of classical parameter regionalisation for ungauged catchments. We used a parsimonious rainfall–runoff model over 45 South Korean catchments under semi-humid climate. The calibration against regional FDCs was compared with the simple proximity-based parameter regionalisation. Results show that transferring behavioural parameters from gauged to ungauged catchments significantly outperformed the local calibration against regional FDCs due to the absence of flow timing information in the regional FDCs. The behavioural parameters gained from observed hydrographs were likely to contain intangible flow timing information affecting predictability in ungauged catchments. Additional constraining with the rising limb density appreciably improved the FDC calibrations, implying that flow signatures in temporal dimensions would supplement the FDCs. As an alternative approach in data-rich regions, we suggest calibrating a rainfall–runoff model against regionalised hydrographs to preserve flow timing information. We also suggest use of flow signatures that can supplement hydrographs for calibrating rainfall–runoff models in gauged and ungauged catchments.