A multi-objective ensemble approach to hydrological modelling in the UK: an application to historic drought reconstruction

Smith, Katie A. ORCID:; Barker, Lucy J. ORCID:; Tanguy, Maliko ORCID:; Parry, Simon; Harrigan, Shaun; Legg, Tim P.; Prudhomme, Christel; Hannaford, Jamie ORCID: 2019 A multi-objective ensemble approach to hydrological modelling in the UK: an application to historic drought reconstruction. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 23 (8). 3247-3268.

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Hydrological models can provide estimates of streamflow pre- and post-observations, which enable greater understanding of past hydrological behaviour, and potential futures. In this paper, a new multi-objective calibration method was derived and tested for 303 catchments in the UK, and the calibrations were used to reconstruct river flows back to 1891, in order to provide a much longer view of past hydrological variability, given the brevity of most UK river flow records which began post-1960. A Latin hypercube sample of 500 000 parameterisations for the GR4J model for each catchment were evaluated against six evaluation metrics covering all aspects of the flow regime from high, median, and low flows. The results of the top ranking model parameterisation (LHS1), and also the top 500 (LHS500), for each catchment were used to provide a deterministic result whilst also accounting for parameter uncertainty. The calibrations are generally good at capturing observed flows, with some exceptions in heavily groundwater-dominated catchments, and snowmelt and artificially influenced catchments across the country. Reconstructed flows were appraised over 30-year moving windows and were shown to provide good simulations of flow in the early parts of the record, in cases where observations were available. To consider the utility of the reconstructions for drought simulation, flow data for the 1975–1976 drought event were explored in detail in nine case study catchments. The model's performance in reproducing the drought events was found to vary by catchment, as did the level of uncertainty in the LHS500. The Standardised Streamflow Index (SSI) was used to assess the model simulations' ability to simulate extreme events. The peaks and troughs of the SSI time series were well represented despite slight over- or underestimations of past drought event magnitudes, while the accumulated deficits of the drought events extracted from the SSI time series verified that the model simulations were overall very good at simulating drought events. This paper provides three key contributions: (1) a robust multi-objective model calibration framework for calibrating catchment models for use in both general and extreme hydrology; (2) model calibrations for the 303 UK catchments that could be used in further research, and operational applications such as hydrological forecasting; and (3) ∼ 125 years of spatially and temporally consistent reconstructed flow data that will allow comprehensive quantitative assessments of past UK drought events, as well as long-term analyses of hydrological variability that have not been previously possible, thus enabling water resource managers to better plan for extreme events and build more resilient systems for the future.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 1027-5606
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 19 Aug 2019 10:10 +0 (UTC)

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