A Statistical Weather-Driven Streamflow Model: Enabling future flow predictions in data-scarce headwater streams

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ana Rosner1, Benjamin H Letcher1 and Richard M Vogel2, (1)USGS/Biological Resources Division, S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Turners Falls, MA, United States, (2)Tufts University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Medford, MA, United States
Predicting streamflow in headwaters and over a broad spatial scale pose unique challenges due to limited data availability. Flow observation gages for headwaters streams are less common than for larger rivers, and gages with records lengths of ten year or more are even more scarce. Thus, there is a great need for estimating streamflows in ungaged or sparsely-gaged headwaters. Further, there is often insufficient basin information to develop rainfall-runoff models that could be used to predict future flows under various climate scenarios.

Headwaters in the northeastern U.S. are of particular concern to aquatic biologists, as these stream serve as essential habitat for native coldwater fish. In order to understand fish response to past or future environmental drivers, estimates of seasonal streamflow are needed.

While there is limited flow data, there is a wealth of data for historic weather conditions. Observed data has been modeled to interpolate a spatially continuous historic weather dataset. (Mauer et al 2002).

We present a statistical model developed by pairing streamflow observations with precipitation and temperature information for the same and preceding time-steps. We demonstrate this model's use to predict flow metrics at the seasonal time-step. While not a physical model, this statistical model represents the weather drivers. Since this model can predict flows not directly tied to reference gages, we can generate flow estimates for historic as well as potential future conditions.