Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Evaluating the impacts of input and parameter uncertainty on streamflow simulations in large under-instrumented basins
by Demaria, Eleonora M. C., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2010, 182; 3403310
Abstract (Summary)

In data-poor regions around the world, particularly in less-privileged countries, hydrologists cannot always take advantage of available hydrological models to simulate a hydrological system due to the lack of reliable measurements of hydrological variables, in particular rainfall and streamflows, needed to implement and evaluate these models. Rainfall estimates obtained with remotely deployed sensors constitute an excellent source of precipitation for these basins, however they are prone to errors that can potentially affect hydrologic simulations. Concurrently, limited access to streamflow measurements does not allow a detailed representation of the system’s structure through parameter estimation techniques. This dissertation presents multiple studies that evaluate the usefulness of remotely sensed products for different hydrological applications and the sensitivity of simulated streamflow to parameter uncertainty across basins with different hydroclimatic characteristics with the ultimate goal of increasing the applicability of land surface models in ungauged basins, particularly in South America. Paper 1 presents a sensitivity analysis of daily simulated streamflows to changes in model parameters along a hydroclimatic gradient. Parameters controlling the generation of surface and subsurface flow were targeted for the study. Results indicate that the sensitivity is strongly controlled by climate and that a more parsimonious version of the model could be implemented. Paper 2 explores how errors in satellite-estimated precipitation, due to infrequent satellite measurements, propagate through the simulation of a basin's hydrological cycle and impact the characteristics of peak streamflows within the basin. Findings indicate that nonlinearities in the hydrological cycle can introduce bias in simulated streamflows with error-corrupted precipitation. They also show that some characteristics of peak discharges are not conditioned by errors in satellite-estimated precipitation at a daily time step. Paper 3 evaluates the dominant sources of error in three satellite products when representing convective storms and how shifts in the location of the storm affect simulated peak streamflows in the basin. Results indicate that satellite products show some deficiencies retrieving convective processes and that a ground bias correction can mitigate these deficiencies but without sacrificing the potential for real-time hydrological applications. Finally, spatially shifted precipitation fields affect the magnitude of the peaks, however, its impact on the timing of the peaks is dampened out by the system's response at a daily time scale.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Valdes, Juan B.
Commitee: Gupta, Hoshin, Hirschboeck, Katherine K., Maddock III, Thomas, Nijssen, Bart
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Hydrology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Hydrologic sciences, Remote sensing
Keywords: Error propagation, La Plata Basin, Land surface models, Parameter uncertainty, Satellite precipitation, Streamflow simulations
Publication Number: 3403310
ISBN: 978-1-109-76660-8
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