Large-scale Runoff Generation and Routing : Efficient Parameterisation using High-resolution Topography and Hydrography

Abstract: Water has always had a controlling influence on the earth’s evolution. Understanding and modelling the large-scale hydrological cycle is important for climate prediction and water-resources studies. In recent years large-scale hydrological models, including the WASMOD-­M evaluated in the thesis, have increasingly become a main assessment tool for global water resources. The monthly version of WASMOD-M, the starting point of the thesis, revealed restraints imposed by limited hydrological and climate data quality and the need to reduce model-structure uncertainties. The model simulated the global water balance with a small volume error but was less successful in capturing the dynamics. In the last years, global high-quality, high-resolution topographies and hydro­graphies have become available. The main thrust of the thesis was the development of a daily WASMOD-M making use of these data to better capture the global water dynamics and to parameter­ise local non-linear processes into the large-scale model. Scale independency, parsimonious model structure, and computational efficiency were main concerns throughout the model development. A new scale-independent routing algorithm, named NRF for network-response function, using two aggregated high-resolution hydrographies, HYDRO1k and HydroSHEDS, was developed and tested in three river basins with different climates in China and North America. The algorithm preserves the spatially distributed time-delay information in the form of simple network-response functions for any low-resolution grid cell in a large-scale hydrological model. A distributed runoff-generation algorithm, named TRG for topography-derived runoff generation, was developed to represent the highly non-linear process at large scales. The algorithm, when inserted into the daily WASMOD-M and tested in same three basins, led to the same or a slightly improved performance compared to a one-layer VIC model, with one parameter less to be calibrated. The TRG algorithm also offered a more realistic spatial pattern for runoff generation. The thesis identified significant improvements in model performance when 1) local instead of global climate data were used, and 2) when the scale-independent NRF routing algorithm was used instead of a traditional storage-based routing algorithm. In the same time, spatial resolution of climate input and choice of high-resolution hydrography have secondary effects on model performance. Two high-resolution topographies and hydrographies were used and compared, and new tech­niques were developed to aggregate their information for use at large scales. The advantages and numerical efficiency of feeding high-resolution information into low-resolution global models were highlighted.