Hydrological model diversity enhances streamflow forecast skill at short-to medium-range timescales

Sanjib Sharma, Ridwan Siddique, Seann Reed, Peter Ahnert, Alfonso Mejia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


We investigate the ability of hydrological multimodel ensemble predictions to enhance the skill of streamflow forecasts at short-to medium-range timescales. To generate the multimodel ensembles, we implement a new statistical postprocessor, namely, quantile regression-Bayesian model averaging (QR-BMA). Quantile regression-Bayesian model averaging uses quantile regression to bias correct the ensemble streamflow forecasts from the individual models and Bayesian model averaging to optimally combine their probability density functions. Additionally, we use an information-theoretic measure, namely, conditional mutual information, to quantify the skill enhancements from the multimodel forecasts. We generate ensemble streamflow forecasts at lead times from 1 to 7 days using three hydrological models: (i) Antecedent Precipitation Index-Continuous, (ii) Hydrology Laboratory-Research Distributed Hydrologic Model, and (iii) Weather Research and Forecasting Hydrological modeling system. As forcing to the hydrological models, we use weather ensemble forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction 11-member Global Ensemble Forecast System Reforecast version 2. The forecasting experiments are performed for four nested basins of the North Branch Susquehanna River, USA. We find that after bias correcting the streamflow forecasts from each model, their skill performance becomes comparable. We find that the multimodel ensemble forecasts have higher skill than the best single-model forecasts. Furthermore, the skill enhancements obtained by the multimodel ensemble forecasts are found to be dominated by model diversity, rather than by increased ensemble size alone. This result, obtained using conditional mutual information, indicates that each hydrological model contributes additional information to enhance forecast skill. Overall, our results highlight benefits of hydrological multimodel forecasting for improving streamflow predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1510-1530
Number of pages21
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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