Understanding hydrological processes with scarce data in a mountain environment

Abstract : Performance of process-based hydrological models is usually assessed through comparison between simulated and measured streamflow. Although necessary, this analysis is not sufficient to estimate the quality and realism of the modelling since streamflow integrates all processes of the water cycle, including intermediate production or redistribution processes such as snowmelt or groundwater flow. Assessing the performance of hydrological models in simulating accurately intermediate processes is often difficult and requires heavy experimental investments. In this study, conceptual hydrological modelling (using SWAT) of a semi-arid mountainous watershed in the High Atlas in Morocco is attempted. Our objective is to analyse whether good intermediate processes simulation is reached when global-satisfying streamflow simulation is possible. First, parameters presenting intercorrelation issues are identified: from the soil, the groundwater and, to a lesser extent, from the snow. Second, methodologies are developed to retrieve information from accessible intermediate hydrological processes. A geochemical method is used to quantify the contribution of a superficial and a deep reservoir to streamflow. It is shown that, for this specific process, the model formalism is not adapted to our study area and thus leads to poor simulation results. A remote-sensing methodology is proposed to retrieve the snow surfaces. Comparison with the simulation shows that this process can be satisfyingly simulated by the model. The multidisciplinary approach adopted in this study, although supported by the hydrological community, is still uncommon.
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A. Chaponnière, Gilles Boulet, Abdelghani Chehbouni, M. Aresmouk. Understanding hydrological processes with scarce data in a mountain environment. Hydrological Processes, Wiley, 2008, 22 (12), pp.1908-1921. ⟨10.1002/hyp.6775⟩. ⟨ird-00388861⟩

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