Semiarid flash floods pose a significant danger for life and property in many dry regions around the world. One effective way to mitigate flood risk lies in implementing a real-time forecast and warning system based on a rainfall-runoff model. This study used a semiarid, physics-based, and spatially distributed watershed model driven by high-resolution radar rainfall input to evaluate such a system. The predictive utility of the model and dominant sources of uncertainty were investigated for several runoff events within the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed located in the southwestern United States. Sources of uncertainty considered were rainfall estimates, watershed model parameters, and initial soil moisture conditions. Results derived through a variance-based comprehensive global sensitivity analysis indicated that the high predictive uncertainty in the modeled response was heavily dominated by biases in the radar rainfall depth estimates. Key model parameters and initial model states were identified, and we generally found that modeled hillslope characteristics are more influential than channel characteristics in small semiarid basins. We also observed an inconsistency in the parameter sets identified as behavioral for different events, which suggests that model calibration to historical data is unlikely to consistently improve predictive performance for different events and that real-time parameter updating may be preferable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology