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Keywords:

  • streamflow forecast;
  • climate forecast;
  • hydrologic model;
  • uncertainty

Abstract

Seasonal streamflow forecasts based on climate information can guide water managers toward superior reservoir operations, leading to improved water resources management efficiency. Uncertainty, however, is always present in seasonal streamflow forecasts, affecting the forecast value. Thus, a forecast should not be considered complete without a description of its uncertainty, which is critical for climate risk and water resources management. This study investigates the uncertainties of a seasonal streamflow forecast system for Northeastern Brazil based on climate precipitation forecasts and hydrologic modeling. These two sources of uncertainty are treated independently and then compared in order to guide future investments in the forecast system. Sea surface temperature is considered to be the primary source of uncertainty for the seasonal precipitation forecasts, based upon a 10-member climate model ensemble. Parameter uncertainty is considered to be the only source of uncertainty for the hydrologic model. Estimation of parameter uncertainty is estimated by the Shuffled Complex Evolution Metropolis algorithm, which employs a Markov Chain Monte Carlo scheme to provide the posterior distribution of the parameters and form uncertainty bounds on streamflow forecasts. Results indicate that uncertainties associated with the climate forecast are much larger than those from parameter estimation in the hydrologic model. Although model structure has not been considered in the evaluation of hydrologic uncertainties, this study indicates that future efforts to address the predominant source of uncertainty should focus on the climate prediction models. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.