Fine-scale hydrologic modeling for regional landscape applications: the California Basin Characterization Model development and performance

Ecological Processes
By: , and 

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Abstract

Introduction

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
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
DOI 10.1186/2192-1709-2-25
Volume 2
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description Article 25; 21 p.
First page 1
Last page 21
Country United States
State California
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