Use of Bayesian merging techniques in a multimodel seasonal hydrologic ensemble prediction system for the Eastern United States

Lifeng Luo, Eric F. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Skillful seasonal hydrologic predictions are useful in managing water resources, preparing for droughts and their impacts, energy planning, and many other related sectors. In this study, a seasonal hydrologic ensemble prediction system is developed and evaluated over the eastern United States, with a focus on the Ohio River basin. The system uses a hydrologic model (i.e., the Variable Infiltration Capacity model) as the central element for producing ensemble predictions of soil moisture, snow, and streamflow with lead times up to six months. One unique feature of this system is in the method for generating ensemble atmospheric forcings for the forecast period. It merges seasonal climate forecasts from multiple climate models with observed climatology in a Bayesian framework, such that the uncertainties related to the atmospheric forcings can be better quantified while the signals from individual models are combined. Simultaneously, climate model forecasts are downscaled to an appropriate spatial scale for hydrologic predictions. When generating daily meteorological forcing, the system uses the rank structures of selected historical forcing records to ensure reasonable weather patterns in space and time. Seasonal hydrologic predictions are made with this system, using seasonal climate forecast from the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS), and from a combination of the NCEP CFS and seven climate models in the European Union's Development of a European Multimodel Ensemble System for Seasonal-to-Interannual Prediction (CFS+DEMETER). Forecasts of these two types are made for the summer periods (May to October) of 1981-99 and are compared to forecasts produced with the traditional Ensemble Streamflow Prediction (ESP) approach used in operational seasonal streamflow predictions. The forecasts from this system for the summer of 1988 show very promising skill in precipitation, soil moisture, and streamflow over the Ohio River basin, especially the multimodel CFS+DEMETER forecast. The evaluation with all 19 summer forecasts shows that the multimodel CFS+DEMETER forecast is significantly better than the ESP forecast during the first two months of the forecasts. The advantage is marginal to moderate when only the CFS forecast is used. This study validates the approach of using seasonal climate predictions from dynamic climate models in hydrological predictions, and it also emphasizes the need for international collaborations to develop multimodel seasonal predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-884
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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