This paper examines the hydrologic model performance in three snowmelt-dominated basins in the western United States to dynamically- and statistically downscaled output from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction/National Center for Atmospheric Research Reanalysis (NCEP). Runoff produced using a distributed hydrologic model is compared using daily precipitation and maximum and minimum temperature timeseries derived from the following sources: (1) NCEP output (horizontal grid spacing of approximately 210 km); (2) dynamically downscaled (DDS) NCEP output using a Regional Climate Model (RegCM2, horizontal grid spacing of approximately 52 km); (3) statistically downscaled (SDS) NCEP output; (4) spatially averaged measured data used to calibrate the hydrologic model (Best-Sta) and (5) spatially averaged measured data derived from stations located within the area of the RegCM2 model output used for each basin, but excluding Best-Sta set (All-Sta). In all three basins the SDS-based simulations of daily runoff were as good as runoff produced using the Best-Sta timeseries. The NCEP, DDS, and All-Sta timeseries were able to capture the gross aspects of the seasonal cycles of precipitation and temperature. However, in all three basins, the NCEP-, DDS-, and All-Sta-based simulations of runoff showed little skill on a daily basis. When the precipitation and temperature biases were corrected in the NCEP, DDS, and All-Sta timeseries, the accuracy of the daily runoff simulations improved dramatically, but, with the exception of the bias-corrected All-Sta data set, these simulations were never as accurate as the SDS-based simulations. This need for a bias correction may be somewhat troubling, but in the case of the large station-timeseries (All-Sta), the bias correction did indeed 'correct' for the change in scale. It is unknown if bias corrections to model output will be valid in a future climate. Future work is warranted to identify the causes for (and removal of) systematic biases in DDS simulations, and improve DDS simulations of daily variability in local climate. Until then, SDS based simulations of runoff appear to be the safer downscaling choice.
Additional publication details
Use of statistically and dynamically downscaled atmospheric model output for hydrologic simulations in three mountainous basins in the western United States