MONTHLY RUNOFF PREDICTIONS BASED ON RAINFALL FORECASTS IN A SMALL OKLAHOMA WATERSHED

Authors


  • Paper No. 04175 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA)

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Conditions under which monthly rainfall forecasts translate into monthly runoff predictions that could support water resources planning and management activities were investigated on a small watershed in central Oklahoma. Runoff response to rainfall forecasts was simulated using the hydrologic model SWAT. Eighteen scenarios were examined that represented combinations of wet, average, and dry antecedent rainfall conditions, with wet, normal, and dry forecasted rainfall. Results suggest that for the climatic and physiographic conditions under consideration, rainfall forecasts could offer potential application opportunities in surface water resources but only under certain conditions. Pronounced wet and dry antecedent rainfall conditions were shown to have greater impact on runoff than forecasts, particularly in the first month of a forecast period. Large forecast impacts on runoff occurred under wet antecedent conditions, when the fraction of forecasted rainfall contributing to runoff was greatest. Under dry antecedent conditions, most of the forecasted rainfall was absorbed in the soil profile, with little immediate runoff response. Persistent three-month forecasts produced stronger impacts on runoff than one-month forecasts due to cumulative effects in the hydrologic system. Runoff response to antecedent conditions and forecasts suggest a highly asymmetric utility function for rainfall forecasts, with greatest decision-support potential for persistent wet forecasts under wet antecedent conditions when the forecast signal is least dampened by soil-storage effects. Under average and dry antecedent conditions, rainfall forecasts showed little potential value for practical applications in surface water resources assessments.

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