The Effect of Rainfall Measurement Technique and Its Spatiotemporal Resolution on Discharge Predictions in the Netherlands
Abstract:Several rainfall measurement techniques are available for hydrological applications, each with its own spatial and temporal resolution. We investigated the effect of these spatiotemporal resolutions on discharge simulations in lowland catchments by forcing a novel rainfall-runoff model (WALRUS) with rainfall data from gauges, radars and microwave links.
The hydrological model used for this analysis is the recently developed Wageningen Lowland Runoff Simulator (WALRUS). WALRUS is a rainfall-runoff model accounting for hydrological processes relevant to areas with shallow groundwater (e.g. groundwater-surface water feedback). Here, we used WALRUS for case studies in a freely draining lowland catchment and a polder with controlled water levels.
We used rain gauge networks with automatic (hourly resolution but low spatial density) and manual gauges (high spatial density but daily resolution). Operational (real-time) and climatological (gauge-adjusted) C-band radar products and country-wide rainfall maps derived from microwave link data from a cellular telecommunication network were also used. Discharges simulated with these different inputs were compared to observations. We also investigated the effect of spatiotemporal resolution with a high-resolution X-band radar data set for catchments with different sizes.
Uncertainty in rainfall forcing is a major source of uncertainty in discharge predictions, both with lumped and with distributed models. For lumped rainfall-runoff models, the main source of input uncertainty is associated with the way in which (effective) catchment-average rainfall is estimated. When catchments are divided into sub-catchments, rainfall spatial variability can become more important, especially during convective rainfall events, leading to spatially varying catchment wetness and spatially varying contribution of quick flow routes. Improving rainfall measurements and their spatiotemporal resolution can improve the performance of rainfall-runoff models, indicating their potential for reducing flood damage through real-time control.