The Xin’anjiang model is a conceptual hydrological model, which has an essential application in humid and semi-humid regions. In the model, the parameters estimation of runoff routing has always been a significant problem in hydrology. The quantitative relationship between parameters of the lag-and-route method and catchment characteristics has not been well studied. In addition, channels in Muskingum method of the Xin’anjiang model are assumed to be virtual channels. Therefore, its parameters need to be estimated by observed flow data. In this paper, a new routing scheme for the Xin’anjiang model is proposed, adopting isochrones method for overland flow and the grid-to-grid Muskingum–Cunge–Todini (MCT) method for channel routing, so that the routing parameters can be estimated according to the geographic information. For the new routing scheme the average overland flow velocity can be determined through the land cover and overland slope, and the channel routing parameters can be determined through channel geometric characteristic, stream order and channel gradient. The improved model was applied at a 90 m grid scale to a nested watershed located in Anhui province, China. The parent Tunxi watershed, with a drainage area of 2692 km2
, contains four internal points with available observed streamflow data, allowing us to evaluate the model’s ability to simulate the hydrologic processes within the watershed. Calibration and verification of the improved model were carried out for hourly time scales using hourly streamflow data from 1982 to 2005. Model performance was assessed by comparing simulated and observed flows at the watershed outlet and interior gauging stations. The performance of both original and new runoff routing schemes were tested and compared at hourly scale. Similar and satisfactory performances were achieved at the outlet both in the new runoff routing scheme using the estimated routing parameters and in the original runoff routing scheme using the calibrated routing parameters, with averaged Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) of 0.92 and 0.93, respectively. Moreover, the new runoff routing scheme is also able to reproduce promising hydrographs at internal gauges in study catchment with the mean NSE ranging from 0.84 to 0.88. These results indicate that the parameter estimation approach is efficient and the developed model can satisfactorily simulate not only the streamflow at the parent watershed outlet, but also the flood hydrograph at the interior gauging points without model recalibration. This study can provide some guidance for the application of the Xin’anjiang model in ungauged areas.
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