Evaluation of Snowmelt Estimation Techniques for Enhanced Spring Peak Flow Prediction

Evaluation of Snowmelt Estimation Techniques for Enhanced Spring Peak Flow Prediction

Agnihotri, J., & Coulibaly, P. (2020). Evaluation of Snowmelt Estimation Techniques for Enhanced Spring Peak Flow Prediction. Water, 12(5), 1290.

Water resources management and planning requires accurate and reliable spring flood forecasts. In cold and snowy countries, particularly in snow-dominated watersheds, enhanced flood prediction requires adequate snowmelt estimation techniques. Whereas the majority of the studies on snow modeling have focused on comparing the performance of empirical techniques and physically based methods, very few studies have investigated empirical models and conceptual models for improving spring peak flow prediction. The objective of this study is to investigate the potential of empirical degree-day method (DDM) to effectively and accurately predict peak flows compared to sophisticated and conceptual SNOW-17 model at two watersheds in Canada: the La-Grande River Basin (LGRB) and the Upper Assiniboine river at Shellmouth Reservoir (UASR). Additional insightful contributions include the evaluation of a seasonal model calibration approach, an annual model calibration method, and two hydrological models: McMaster University Hydrologiska Byrans Vattenbalansavdelning (MAC-HBV) and Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting model (SAC-SMA). A total of eight model scenarios were considered for each watershed. Results indicate that DDM was very competitive with SNOW-17 at both the study sites, whereas it showed significant improvement in prediction accuracy at UASR. Moreover, the seasonally calibrated model appears to be an effective alternative to an annual model calibration approach, while the SAC-SMA model outperformed the MAC-HBV model, no matter which snowmelt computation method, calibration approach, or study basin is used. Conclusively, the DDM and seasonal model calibration approach coupled with the SAC-SMA hydrologic model appears to be a robust model combination for spring peak flow estimation.