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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Gridded climate data products are an alternative to instrumental measurements as inputs to rainfall–runoff models

Ledesma, Jose L. J.; Futter, Martyn N.


Rainfall-runoff models are widely used to predict flows using observed (instrumental) time series of air temperature and precipitation as inputs. Poor model performance is often associated with difficulties in estimating catchment-scale meteorological variables from point observations. Readily available gridded climate products are an underutilized source of temperature and precipitation time series for rainfall-runoff modelling, which may overcome some of the performance issues associated with poor-quality instrumental data in small headwater monitoring catchments. Here we compare the performance of instrumental measured and E-OBS gridded temperature and precipitation time series as inputs in the rainfall-runoff models "PERSiST" and "HBV" for flow prediction in six small Swedish catchments. For both models and most catchments, the gridded data produced statistically better simulations than did those obtained using instrumental measurements. Despite the high correspondence between instrumental and gridded temperature, both temperature and precipitation were responsible for the difference. We conclude that (a) gridded climate products such as the E-OBS dataset could be more widely used as alternative input to rainfall-runoff models, even when instrumental measurements are available, and (b) the processing applied to gridded climate products appears to provide a more realistic approximation of small catchment-scale temperature and precipitation patterns needed for flow simulations. Further research on this issue is needed and encouraged.


catchment science; E-OBS; hydrological modelling; model error; model input data; model uncertainty; precipitation measurement; temperature measurement

Published in

Hydrological Processes
2017, Volume: 31, number: 18, pages: 3283-3293