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Internal catchment process simulation in a snow-dominated basin: performance evaluation with spatiotemporally variable runoff generation and groundwater dynamics

Authors

  • Piotr K. Kuraś,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, 2045-2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
    2. Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd., 30 Gostick Place, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 3G3, Canada
    • Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd., 30 Gostick Place, North Vancouver, BC, V7M 3G3, Canada.
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  • Younes Alila,

    1. Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, 2045-2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
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  • Markus Weiler,

    1. Institute of Hydrology, University of Freiburg, Fahnenbergplatz, D-79098 Freiburg, Germany
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  • Dave Spittlehouse,

    1. British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, PO Box 9519, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC, V8W 9C2, Canada
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  • Rita Winkler

    1. British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, 441 Columbia St., Kamloops, BC, V2C 2T3, Canada
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Abstract

Hydrologic models have increasingly been used in forest hydrology to overcome the limitations of paired watershed experiments, where vegetative recovery and natural variability obscure the inferences and conclusions that can be drawn from such studies. Models are also plagued by uncertainty, however, and parameter equifinality is a common concern. Physically-based, spatially-distributed hydrologic models must therefore be tested with high-quality experimental data describing a multitude of concurrent internal catchment processes under a range of hydrologic regimes. This study takes a novel approach by not only examining the ability of a pre-calibrated model to realistically simulate watershed outlet flows over a four year period, but a multitude of spatially-extensive, internal catchment process observations not previously evaluated, including: continuous groundwater dynamics, instantaneous stream and road network flows, and accumulation and melt period spatial snow distributions. Many hydrologic model evaluations are only on the comparison of predicted and observed discharge at a catchment outlet and remain in the ‘infant stage’ in terms of model testing. This study, on the other hand, tests the internal spatial predictions of a distributed model with a range of field observations over a wide range of hydroclimatic conditions. Nash-Sutcliffe model efficiency was improved over prior evaluations due to continuing efforts in improving the quality of meteorological data collection. Road and stream network flows were generally well simulated for a range of hydrologic conditions, and snowpack spatial distributions were well simulated for one of two years examined. The spatial variability of groundwater dynamics was effectively simulated, except at locations where strong stream–groundwater interactions exist. Model simulations overall were quite successful in realistically simulating the spatiotemporal variability of internal catchment processes in the watershed, but the premature onset of simulated snowmelt for one of the simulation years has prompted further work in model development. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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