Evaluation of the JULES land surface model in simulating catchment hydrology in Southern Africa

N. C. MacKellar, S. J. Dadson, M. New, P. Wolski
2013 Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions  
<p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Land surface models (LSMs) are advanced tools which can be used to estimate energy, water and biogeochemical exchanges at regional scales. The inclusion of a river flow routing module in an LSM allows for the simulation of river discharge from a catchment and offers an approach to evaluate the response of the system to variations in climate and land-use, which can provide useful information for regional water resource management. This study offers insight into some
more » ... s insight into some of the pragmatic considerations of applying an LSM over a regional domain in Southern Africa. The objectives are to identify key parameter sensitivities and investigate differences between two runoff production schemes in physically contrasted catchments. The Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) LSM was configured for a domain covering Southern Africa at a 0.5° resolution. The model was forced with meteorological input from the WATCH Forcing Data for the period 1981–2001 and sensitivity to various model configurations and parameter settings were tested. Both the PDM and TOPMODEL sub-grid scale runoff generation schemes were tested for parameter sensitivities, with the evaluation focussing on simulated river discharge in sub-catchments of the Orange, Okavango and Zambezi rivers. It was found that three catchments respond differently to the model configurations and there is no single runoff parameterization scheme or parameter values that yield optimal results across all catchments. The PDM scheme performs well in the upper Orange catchment, but poorly in the Okavango and Zambezi, whereas TOPMODEL grossly underestimates discharge in the upper Orange and shows marked improvement over PDM for the Okavango and Zambezi. A major shortcoming of PDM is that it does not realistically represent subsurface runoff in the deep, porous soils typical of the Okavango and Zambezi headwaters. The dry-season discharge in these catchments is therefore not replicated by PDM. TOPMODEL, however, simulates a more realistic seasonal cycle of subsurface runoff and hence improved dry-season flow.</p>
doi:10.5194/hessd-10-11093-2013 fatcat:l46f2i36tjbudfxd6nsizpqjpm