Benchmarking Real-Time Streamflow Forecast Skill in the Himalayan Region

Ganesh R. Ghimire, Sanjib Sharma, Jeeban Panthi, Rocky Talchabhadel, Binod Parajuli, Piyush Dahal, Rupesh Baniya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Improving decision-making in various areas of water policy and management (e.g., flood and drought preparedness, reservoir operation and hydropower generation) requires skillful streamflow forecasts. Despite the recent advances in hydrometeorological prediction, real-time streamflow forecasting over the Himalayas remains a critical issue and challenge, especially with complex basin physiography, shifting weather patterns and sparse and biased in-situ hydrometeorological monitoring data. In this study, we demonstrate the utility of low-complexity data-driven persistence-based approaches for skillful streamflow forecasting in the Himalayan country Nepal. The selected approaches are: (1) simple persistence, (2) streamflow climatology and (3) anomaly persistence. We generated the streamflow forecasts for 65 stream gauge stations across Nepal for short-to-medium range forecast lead times (1 to 12 days). The selected gauge stations were monitored by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) Nepal, and they represent a wide range of basin size, from ~17 to ~54,100 km2. We find that the performance of persistence-based forecasting approaches depends highly upon the lead time, flow threshold, basin size and flow regime. Overall, the persistence-based forecast results demonstrate higher forecast skill in snow-fed rivers over intermittent ones, moderate flows over extreme ones and larger basins over smaller ones. The streamflow forecast skill obtained in this study can serve as a benchmark (reference) for the evaluation of many operational forecasting systems over the Himalayas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-247
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Decision Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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