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Climate 2017, 5(1), 19; doi:10.3390/cli5010019

Assessing River Low-Flow Uncertainties Related to Hydrological Model Calibration and Structure under Climate Change Conditions

Université de Sherbrooke, Department of Civil Engineering, 2500, boul de l’Université, Sherbrooke, QC J1K 2R1, Canada
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Academic Editor: Yang Zhang
Received: 1 October 2016 / Revised: 16 February 2017 / Accepted: 27 February 2017 / Published: 3 March 2017
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Abstract

Low-flow is the flow of water in a river during prolonged dry weather. This paper investigated the uncertainty originating from hydrological model calibration and structure in low-flow simulations under climate change conditions. Two hydrological models of contrasting complexity, GR4J and SWAT, were applied to four sub-watersheds of the Yamaska River, Canada. The two models were calibrated using seven different objective functions including the Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient (NSEQ) and six other objective functions more related to low flows. The uncertainty in the model parameters was evaluated using a PARAmeter SOLutions procedure (PARASOL). Twelve climate projections from different combinations of General Circulation Models (GCMs) and Regional Circulation Models (RCMs) were used to simulate low-flow indices in a reference (1970–2000) and future (2040–2070) horizon. Results indicate that the NSEQ objective function does not properly represent low-flow indices for either model. The NSE objective function applied to the log of the flows shows the lowest total variance for all sub-watersheds. In addition, these hydrological models should be used with care for low-flow studies, since they both show some inconsistent results. The uncertainty is higher for SWAT than for GR4J. With GR4J, the uncertainties in the simulations for the 7Q2 index (the 7-day low-flow value with a 2-year return period) are lower for the future period than for the reference period. This can be explained by the analysis of hydrological processes. In the future horizon, a significant worsening of low-flow conditions was projected. View Full-Text
Keywords: low flows; hydrological uncertainty; climate change; calibration low flows; hydrological uncertainty; climate change; calibration
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MDPI and ACS Style

Trudel, M.; Doucet-Généreux, P.-L.; Leconte, R. Assessing River Low-Flow Uncertainties Related to Hydrological Model Calibration and Structure under Climate Change Conditions. Climate 2017, 5, 19.

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