The world has experienced large-scale urbanization in the past century, and this trend is ongoing. Urbanization not only causes land use/cover (LUC) changes but also changes the flood responses of watersheds. Lumped conceptual hydrological models cannot be effectively used for flood forecasting in watersheds that lack long time series of hydrological data to calibrate model parameters. Thus, physically based distributed hydrological models are used instead in these areas, but considerable uncertainty is associated with model parameter derivation. To reduce model parameter uncertainty in physically based distributed hydrological models for flood forecasting in highly urbanized watersheds, a procedure is proposed to control parameter uncertainty. The core concept of this procedure is to identify the key hydrological and flood processes in the highly urbanized watersheds and the sensitive model parameters related to these processes. Then, the sensitive model parameters are adjusted based on local runoff coefficients to reduce the parameter uncertainty. This procedure includes these steps: collecting the latest LUC information or estimating this information using satellite remote sensing images, analyzing LUC spatial patterns and identifying dominant LUC types and their spatial structures, choosing and establishing a distributed hydrological model as the forecasting tool, and determining the initial model parameters and identifying the key hydrological processes and sensitive model parameters based on a parameter sensitivity analysis. A highly urbanized watershed called Shahe Creek in the Pearl River Delta area was selected as a case study. This study finds that the runoff production processes associated with both the ferric luvisol and acric ferralsol soil types and the runoff routing process on urban land are key hydrological processes. Additionally, the soil water content under saturated conditions, the soil water content under field conditions and the roughness of urban land are sensitive parameters.
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