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Effect of spatial distribution of daily rainfall on interior catchment response of a distributed hydrological model

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Author: Schuurmans, J.M. · Bierkens, M.F.P.
Institution: TNO Bouw en Ondergrond
Source:Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, 4, 3, 2175-2208
Identifier: 239688
Keywords: Geosciences · catchment · discharge · groundwater · hydrological modeling · hydrological response · precipitation intensity · prediction · raingauge · soil moisture · spatial distribution · spatial variation · water table · Benelux · Eurasia · Europe · Netherlands · Western Europe


We investigate the effect of spatial variability of daily rainfall on soil moisture, groundwater level and discharge using a physically-based, fully-distributed hydrological model. We focus on the effect of rainfall spatial variability on day-to-day variability of the interior catchment response, as well as on its effect on the general hydrological behavior of the catchment. The study is performed in a flat rural catchment (135 km2) in The Netherlands, where climate is semi-humid (average precipitation 800 mm/year, evapotranspiration 550 mm/year) and rainfall is predominantly stratiform. Both range-corrected radar data (resolution 2.5×2.5 km2) as well as data from a dense network of 30 raingauges are used, observed for the period March-October 2004. Eight different rainfall scenarios, either spatially distributed or spatially uniform, are used as input for the hydrological model. The main conclusions from this study are: (i) using a single raingauge as rainfall input carries a great risk for the prediction of discharge, groundwater level and soil moisture, especially if the raingauge is situated outside the catchment; (ii) taking into account the spatial variability of rainfall instead of using areal average rainfall as input for the model is needed to get insight into the day-to-day spatial variability of discharge, groundwater level and soil moisture content; (iii) to get insight into the general behavior of the hydrological system it is sufficient to use correct predictions of areal average rainfall over the catchment.