Stochastic model for simulating Souris River Basin precipitation, evapotranspiration, and natural streamflow

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5185
Prepared in cooperation with the North Dakota State Water Commission
By:

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Abstract

The Souris River Basin is a 61,000-square-kilometer basin in the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the State of North Dakota. In May and June of 2011, record-setting rains were seen in the headwater areas of the basin. Emergency spillways of major reservoirs were discharging at full or nearly full capacity, and extensive flooding was seen in numerous downstream communities. To determine the probability of future extreme floods and droughts, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the North Dakota State Water Commission, developed a stochastic model for simulating Souris River Basin precipitation, evapotranspiration, and natural (unregulated) streamflow. Simulations from the model can be used in future studies to simulate regulated streamflow, design levees, and other structures; and to complete economic cost/benefit analyses.

Long-term climatic variability was analyzed using tree-ring chronologies to hindcast precipitation to the early 1700s and compare recent wet and dry conditions to earlier extreme conditions. The extended precipitation record was consistent with findings from the Devils Lake and Red River of the North Basins (southeast of the Souris River Basin), supporting the idea that regional climatic patterns for many centuries have consisted of alternating wet and dry climate states.

A stochastic climate simulation model for precipitation, temperature, and potential evapotranspiration for the Souris River Basin was developed using recorded meteorological data and extended precipitation records provided through tree-ring analysis. A significant climate transition was seen around1970, with 1912–69 representing a dry climate state and 1970–2011 representing a wet climate state. Although there were some distinct subpatterns within the basin, the predominant differences between the two states were higher spring through early fall precipitation and higher spring potential evapotranspiration for the wet compared to the dry state.

A water-balance model was developed for simulating monthly natural (unregulated) mean streamflow based on precipitation, temperature, and potential evapotranspiration at select streamflow-gaging stations. The model was calibrated using streamflow data from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environment Canada, along with natural (unregulated) streamflow data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Correlation coefficients between simulated and natural (unregulated) flows generally were high (greater than 0.8), and the seasonal means and standard deviations of the simulated flows closely matched the means and standard deviations of the natural (unregulated) flows. After calibrating the model for a monthly time step, monthly streamflow for each subbasin was disaggregated into three values per month, or an approximately 10-day time step, and a separate routing model was developed for simulating 10-day streamflow for downstream gages.

The stochastic climate simulation model for precipitation, temperature, and potential evapotranspiration was combined with the water-balance model to simulate potential future sequences of 10-day mean streamflow for each of the streamflow-gaging station locations. Flood risk, as determined by equilibrium flow-frequency distributions for the dry (1912–69) and wet (1970–2011) climate states, was considerably higher for the wet state compared to the dry state. Future flood risk will remain high until the wet climate state ends, and for several years after that, because there may be a long lag-time between the return of drier conditions and the onset of a lower soil-moisture storage equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

Kolars, K.A., Vecchia, A.V., and Ryberg, K.R., 2016, Stochastic model for simulating Souris River Basin precipitation, evapotranspiration, and natural streamflow: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5185, 55 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155185.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Analysis of Long-Term Climate Variability
  • Stochastic Climate Model for Simulation of Precipitation, Temperature, and Potential Evapotranspiration
  • Water-Balance Model for Estimating Natural Streamflow
  • Stochastic Natural Streamflow Model
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix. Water-Balance Model Equations

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Stochastic model for simulating Souris River Basin precipitation, evapotranspiration, and natural streamflow
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5185
DOI 10.3133/sir20155185
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) North Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
Description viii, 55 p.
Country Canada, United States
State Manitoba, North Dakota, Saskatchewan
Other Geospatial Souris River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N