How do potential evapotranspiration formulas influence hydrological projections?

Hydrological Sciences Journal | Seiller & Anctil [2016]

This paper evaluates the sensitivity of hydrological projections to the choice of potential evapotranspiration formulas on two natural sub-catchments, in Canada and Germany. Twenty-four equations, representing a large range of options, are applied for calibration over the whole observation time series and for future conditions. The modelling chain is composed of dynamically downscaled climatic projections and a 20-member (ensemble) hydrological model, along with a snow module. The roots of the sensitivity and its propagation within the hydrological chain are evaluated to show influences on climate change impact conclusions. Results show large differences between the 24 simulated potential evapotranspiration time series. However, these discrepancies only moderately affect the calibration efficiency of hydrological models as a result of adaptation of parameters. Choice of formula influences hydrological projections and climate change conclusions for both catchments in terms of simulated and projected values, and also in the magnitude of changes during important dynamic periods such as spring and autumn high flows and summer low flows. Spread of the hydrological response is lower for the combinational formulas than for temperature-based or radiation-based equations. All the results reveal the importance of testing a large spectrum of potential evapotranspiration formulas in a decision-making context, such as water resources management.

Full text can be found here.

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