Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
05 Aug 2008
 | 05 Aug 2008

A hydrometeorological model intercomparison as a tool to quantify the forecast uncertainty in a medium size basin

A. Amengual, T. Diomede, C. Marsigli, A. Martín, A. Morgillo, R. Romero, P. Papetti, and S. Alonso

Abstract. In the framework of AMPHORE, an INTERREG III B EU project devoted to the hydrometeorological modeling study of heavy precipitation episodes resulting in flood events and the improvement of the operational hydrometeorological forecasts for the prediction and prevention of flood risks in the Western Mediterranean area, a hydrometeorological model intercomparison has been carried out, in order to estimate the uncertainties associated with the discharge predictions. The analysis is performed for an intense precipitation event selected as a case study within the project, which affected northern Italy and caused a flood event in the upper Reno river basin, a medium size catchment in the Emilia-Romagna Region.

Two different hydrological models have been implemented over the basin: HEC-HMS and TOPKAPI which are driven in two ways. Firstly, stream-flow simulations obtained by using precipitation observations as input data are evaluated, in order to be aware of the performance of the two hydrological models. Secondly, the rainfall-runoff models have been forced with rainfall forecast fields provided by mesoscale atmospheric model simulations in order to evaluate the reliability of the discharge forecasts resulting by the one-way coupling. The quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPFs) are provided by the numerical mesoscale models COSMO and MM5.

Furthermore, different configurations of COSMO and MM5 have been adopted, trying to improve the description of the phenomena determining the precipitation amounts. In particular, the impacts of using different initial and boundary conditions, different mesoscale models and of increasing the horizontal model resolutions are investigated. The accuracy of QPFs is assessed in a threefold procedure. First, these are checked against the observed spatial rainfall accumulations over northern Italy. Second, the spatial and temporal simulated distributions are also examined over the catchment of interest. And finally, the discharge simulations resulting from the one-way coupling with HEC-HMS and TOPKAPI are evaluated against the rain-gauge driven simulated flows, thus employing the hydrological models as a validation tool.

The different scenarios of the simulated river flows – provided by an independent implementation of the two hydrological models each one forced with both COSMO and MM5 – enable a quantification of the uncertainties of the precipitation outputs, and therefore, of the discharge simulations.

Results permit to highlight some hydrological and meteorological modeling factors which could help to enhance the hydrometeorological modeling of such hazardous events. Main conclusions are: (1) deficiencies in precipitation forecasts have a major impact on flood forecasts; (2) large-scale shift errors in precipitation patterns are not improved by only enhancing the mesoscale model resolution; and (3) weak differences in flood forecasting performance are found by using either a distributed continuous or a semi-distributed event-based hydrological model for this catchment.