Impact of rainfall spatial distribution on rainfall-runoff modelling efficiency and initial soil moisture conditions estimation
Abstract. A good knowledge of rainfall is essential for hydrological operational purposes such as flood forecasting. The objective of this paper was to analyze, on a relatively large sample of flood events, how rainfall-runoff modeling using an event-based model can be sensitive to the use of spatial rainfall compared to mean areal rainfall over the watershed. This comparison was based not only on the model's efficiency in reproducing the flood events but also through the estimation of the initial conditions by the model, using different rainfall inputs. The initial conditions of soil moisture are indeed a key factor for flood modeling in the Mediterranean region. In order to provide a soil moisture index that could be related to the initial condition of the model, the soil moisture output of the Safran-Isba-Modcou (SIM) model developed by Météo-France was used. This study was done in the Gardon catchment (545 km2) in South France, using uniform or spatial rainfall data derived from rain gauge and radar for 16 flood events. The event-based model considered combines the SCS runoff production model and the Lag and Route routing model. Results show that spatial rainfall increases the efficiency of the model. The advantage of using spatial rainfall is marked for some of the largest flood events. In addition, the relationship between the model's initial condition and the external predictor of soil moisture provided by the SIM model is better when using spatial rainfall, in particular when using spatial radar data with R2 values increasing from 0.61 to 0.72.
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