Evaluation of the ERA5 reanalysis as a potential reference dataset for hydrological modelling over North America

Tarek, Mostafa; Brissette, François P.; Arsenault, Richard

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) recently released its most advanced reanalysis product, the ERA5 dataset. It was designed and generated with methods giving it multiple advantages over the previous release, the ERA-Interim reanalysis product. Notably, it has a finer spatial resolution, is archived at the hourly time step, uses a more advanced assimilation system and includes more sources of data. This paper aims to evaluate the ERA5 reanalysis as a potential reference dataset for hydrological modelling by considering the ERA5 precipitation and temperatures as proxies for observations in the hydrological modelling process, using two lumped hydrological models over 3138 North American catchments. This study shows that ERA5-based hydrological modelling performance is equivalent to using observations over most of North America, with the exception of the eastern half of the US, where observations lead to consistently better performance. ERA5 temperature and precipitation biases are consistently reduced compared to ERA-Interim and systematically more accurate for hydrological modelling. Differences between ERA5, ERA-Interim and observation datasets are mostly linked to precipitation, as temperature only marginally influences the hydrological simulation outcomes.

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Tarek, Mostafa / Brissette, François P. / Arsenault, Richard: Evaluation of the ERA5 reanalysis as a potential reference dataset for hydrological modelling over North America. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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