Predictability of soil moisture and river flows over France for the spring season
Sources of spring predictability of the hydrological system over France were studied on a seasonal time scale over the 1960–2005 period. Two random sampling experiments were set up in order to test the relative importance of the land surface initial state and the atmospheric forcing. The experiments were based on the SAFRAN-ISBA-MODCOU hydrometeorological suite which computed soil moisture and river flow forecasts over a 8-km grid and more than 880 river-gauging stations. Results showed that the predictability of hydrological variables primarily depended on the seasonal atmospheric forcing (mostly temperature and total precipitation) over most plains, whereas it mainly depended on snow cover over high mountains. However, the Seine catchment area was an exception as the skill mainly came from the initial state of its large and complex aquifers. Seasonal meteorological hindcasts with the Météo-France ARPEGE climate model were then used to force the ISBA-MODCOU hydrological model and obtain seasonal hydrological forecasts from 1960 to 2005 for the entire March-April-May period. Scores from this seasonal hydrological forecasting suite could thus be compared with the random atmospheric experiment. Soil moisture and river flow skill scores clearly showed the added value in seasonal meteorological forecasts in the north of France, contrary to the Mediterranean area where values worsened.