Statistical models for estimating daily streamflow in Michigan

Water-Resources Investigations Report 91-4194

Prepared in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources



Statistical models for estimating daily streamflow were analyzed for 25 pairs of streamflow-gaging stations in Michigan. Stations were paired by randomly choosing a station operated in 1989 at which 10 or more years of continuous flow data had been collected and at which flow is virtually unregulated; a nearby station was chosen where flow characteristics are similar. Streamflow data from the 25 randomly selected stations were used as the response variables; streamflow data at the nearby stations were used to generate a set of explanatory variables.

Ordinary-least squares regression (OLSR) equations, autoregressive integrated moving-average (ARIMA) equations, and transfer function-noise (TFN) equations were developed to estimate the log transform of flow for the 25 randomly selected stations. The precision of each type of equation was evaluated on the basis of the standard deviation of the estimation errors. OLSR equations produce one set of estimation errors; ARIMA and TFN models each produce l sets of estimation errors corresponding to the forecast lead. The lead-l forecast is the estimate of flow l days ahead of the most recent streamflow used as a response variable in the estimation. In this analysis, the standard deviation of lead l ARIMA and TFN forecast errors were generally lower than the standard deviation of OLSR errors for l < 2 days and l < 9 days, respectively.

Composite estimates were computed as a weighted average of forecasts based on TFN equations and backcasts (forecasts of the reverse-ordered series) based on ARIMA equations. The standard deviation of composite errors varied throughout the length of the estimation interval and generally was at maximum near the center of the interval. For comparison with OLSR errors, the mean standard deviation of composite errors were computed for intervals of length 1 to 40 days. The mean standard deviation of length-l composite errors were generally less than the standard deviation of the OLSR errors for l < 32 days. In addition, the composite estimates ensure a gradual transition between periods of estimated and measured flows.

Model performance among stations of differing model error magnitudes were compared by computing ratios of the mean standard deviation of the length l composite errors to the standard deviation of OLSR errors. The mean error ratio for the set of 25 selected stations was less than 1 for intervals l < 32 days. Considering the frequency characteristics of the length of intervals of estimated record in Michigan, the effective mean error ratio for intervals < 30 days was 0.52. Thus, for intervals of estimation of 1 month or less, the error of the composite estimate is substantially lower than error of the OLSR estimate.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Statistical models for estimating daily streamflow in Michigan
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Lansing, MI
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
iv, 48 p.
United States