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Keywords:

  • runoff;
  • snow hydrology;
  • streamflow;
  • surface water hydrology

Abstract:  Official seasonal water supply outlooks for the western United States are typically produced once per month from January through June. The Natural Resources Conservation Service has developed a new outlook product that allows the automated production and delivery of this type of forecast year-round and with a daily update frequency. Daily snow water equivalent and water year-to-date precipitation data from multiple SNOTEL stations are combined using a statistical forecasting technique (“Z-Score Regression”) to predict seasonal streamflow volume. The skill of these forecasts vs. lead-time is comparable to the official published outlooks. The new product matches the intra-monthly trends in the official forecasts until the target period is partly in the past, when the official forecasts begin to use information about observed streamflows to date. Geographically, the patterns of skill also match the official outlooks, with highest skill in Idaho and southern Colorado and lowest skill in the Colorado Front Range, eastern New Mexico, and eastern Montana. The direct and frequent delivery of objective guidance to users is a significant new development in the operational hydrologic seasonal forecasting community.