Assessment of the ParFlow-CLM CONUS 1.0 integrated hydrologic model: evaluation of hyper-resolution water balance components across the contiguous United States

Mary M.F. O'neill, Danielle T. Tijerina, Laura E. Condon, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Recent advancements in computational efficiency and Earth system modeling have awarded hydrologists with increasingly high-resolution models of terrestrial hydrology, which are paramount to understanding and predicting complex fluxes of moisture and energy. Continental-scale hydrologic simulations are, in particular, of interest to the hydrologic community for numerous societal, scientific, and operational benefits. The coupled hydrology-land surface model ParFlow-CLM configured over the continental United States (PFCONUS) has been employed in previous literature to study scale-dependent connections between water table depth, topography, recharge, and evapotranspiration, as well as to explore impacts of anthropogenic aquifer depletion to the water and energy balance. These studies have allowed for an unprecedented process-based understanding of the continental water cycle at high resolution. Here, we provide the most comprehensive evaluation of PFCONUS version 1.0 (PFCONUSv1) performance to date by comparing numerous modeled water balance components with thousands of in situ observations and several remote sensing products and using a range of statistical performance metrics for evaluation. PFCONUSv1 comparisons with these datasets are a promising indicator of model fidelity and ability to reproduce the continental-scale water balance at high resolution. Areas for improvement are identified, such as a positive streamflow bias at gauges in the eastern Great Plains, a shallow water table bias over many areas of the model domain, and low bias in seasonal total water storage amplitude, especially for the Ohio, Missouri, and Arkansas River basins. We discuss several potential sources for model bias and suggest that minimizing error in topographic processing and meteorological forcing would considerably improve model performance. Results here provide a benchmark and guidance for further PFCONUS model development, and they highlight the importance of concurrently evaluating all hydrologic components and fluxes to provide a multivariate, holistic validation of the complete modeled water balance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7223-7254
Number of pages32
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 30 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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