Sparse climatic observations represent a major challenge for hydrological modeling of mountain catchments with implications for decision-making in water resources management. Employing elevation bands in the Soil and Water Assessment Tool-Sequential Uncertainty Fitting (SWAT2012-SUFI2) model enabled representation of precipitation and temperature variation with altitude in the Daning river catchment (Three Gorges Reservoir Region, China) where meteorological inputs are limited in spatial extent and are derived from observations from relatively low lying locations. Inclusion of elevation bands produced better model performance for 1987–1993 with the Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE
) increasing by at least 0.11 prior to calibration. During calibration prediction uncertainty was greatly reduced. With similar R
-factors from the earlier calibration iterations, a further 11% of observations were included within the 95% prediction uncertainty (95PPU) compared to the model without elevation bands. For behavioral simulations defined in SWAT calibration using a NSE
threshold of 0.3, an additional 3.9% of observations were within the 95PPU while the uncertainty reduced by 7.6% in the model with elevation bands. The calibrated model with elevation bands reproduced observed river discharges with the performance in the calibration period changing to “very good” from “poor” without elevation bands. The output uncertainty of calibrated model with elevation bands was satisfactory, having 85% of flow observations included within the 95PPU. These results clearly demonstrate the requirement to account for orographic effects on precipitation and temperature in hydrological models of mountainous catchments.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited