Diagnosis toward predicting mean annual runoff in ungauged basins

Gao, Yuan; Yao, Lili; Chang, Ni-Bin; Wang, Dingbao

Prediction of mean annual runoff is of great interest but still poses a challenge in ungauged basins. The present work diagnoses the prediction in mean annual runoff affected by the uncertainty in estimated distribution of soil water storage capacity. Based on a distribution function, a water balance model for estimating mean annual runoff is developed, in which the effects of climate variability and the distribution of soil water storage capacity are explicitly represented. As such, the two parameters in the model have explicit physical meanings, and relationships between the parameters and controlling factors on mean annual runoff are established. The estimated parameters from the existing data of watershed characteristics are applied to 35 watersheds. The results showed that the model could capture 88.2 % of the actual mean annual runoff on average across the study watersheds, indicating that the proposed new water balance model is promising for estimating mean annual runoff in ungauged watersheds. The underestimation of mean annual runoff is mainly caused by the underestimation of the area percentage of low soil water storage capacity due to neglecting the effect of land surface and bedrock topography. Higher spatial variability of soil water storage capacity estimated through the height above the nearest drainage (HAND) and topographic wetness index (TWI) indicated that topography plays a crucial role in determining the actual soil water storage capacity. The performance of mean annual runoff prediction in ungauged basins can be improved by employing better estimation of soil water storage capacity including the effects of soil, topography, and bedrock. It leads to better diagnosis of the data requirement for predicting mean annual runoff in ungauged basins based on a newly developed process-based model finally.

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Gao, Yuan / Yao, Lili / Chang, Ni-Bin / et al: Diagnosis toward predicting mean annual runoff in ungauged basins. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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