Resource managers need spatially explicit models of hydrologic response to changes in key climatic drivers across variable landscape conditions. We demonstrate the utility of a Basin Characterization Model for California (CA-BCM) to integrate high-resolution data on physical watershed characteristics with historical or projected climate data to predict watershed-specific hydrologic responses.
The CA-BCM applies a monthly regional water-balance model to simulate hydrologic responses to climate at the spatial resolution of a 270-m grid. The model has been calibrated using a total of 159 relatively unimpaired watersheds for the California region.
As a result of calibration, predicted basin discharge closely matches measured data for validation watersheds. The CA-BCM recharge and runoff estimates, combined with estimates of snowpack and timing of snowmelt, provide a basis for assessing variations in water availability. Another important output variable, climatic water deficit, integrates the combined effects of temperature and rainfall on site-specific soil moisture, a factor that plants may respond to more directly than air temperature and precipitation alone. Model outputs are calculated for each grid cell, allowing results to be summarized for a variety of planning units including hillslopes, watersheds, ecoregions, or political boundaries.
The ability to confidently calculate hydrologic outputs at fine spatial scales provides a new suite of hydrologic predictor variables that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as projections of changes in water availability, environmental demand, or distribution of plants and habitats. Here we present the framework of the CA-BCM model for the California hydrologic region, a test of model performance on 159 watersheds, summary results for the region for the 1981–2010 time period, and changes since the 1951–1980 time period.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Fine-scale hydrologic modeling for regional landscape applications: the California Basin Characterization Model development and performance|
|Series title||Ecological Processes|
|Contributing office(s)||California Water Science Center|
|Description||Article 25; 21 p.|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|