Submitted as: model evaluation paper 07 Dec 2020

Submitted as: model evaluation paper | 07 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

Assessment of the ParFlow-CLM CONUS 1.0 integrated hydrologic model: Evaluation of hyper-resolution water balance components across the contiguous United States

Mary M. F. O'Neill1,a,b, Danielle T. Tijerina1,c, Laura E. Condon2, and Reed M. Maxwell1,c Mary M. F. O'Neill et al.
  • 1Colorado School of Mines, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Golden, CO, USA
  • 2The University of Arizona, Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, Tuscon, AZ, USA
  • anow at: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Hydrological Sciences Laboratory, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • bnow at: University of Maryland, College Park, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • cnow at: Princeton University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton, NJ, USA

Abstract. Recent advancements in computational efficiency and earth system modeling have awarded hydrologists with increasingly high-resolution models of terrestrial hydrology, which are paramount to understanding and predicting complex fluxes of moisture and energy. Continental-scale hydrologic simulations are, in particular, of interest to the hydrologic community for numerous societal, scientific and operational benefits. The coupled hydrology-land surface model ParFlow-CLM configured over the continental United States (PFCONUS) has been employed in previous literature to study scale-dependent connections between water table depth, topography, recharge, and evapotranspiration, as well as to explore impacts of anthropogenic aquifer depletion to the water and energy balance. These studies have allowed for an unprecedented, process-based understanding of the continental water cycle at high resolution. Here, we provide the most comprehensive evaluation of PFCONUS version 1.0 (PFCONUSv1) performance to date, comparing numerous modeled water balance components with thousands of in situ observations and several remote sensing products, and using a range of statistical performance metrics for evaluation. PFCONUSv1 comparisons with these datasets are a promising indicator of model fidelity and ability to appropriately reproduce the continental-scale water balance at high resolution. Areas for improvement are identified, such as a positive streamflow bias at gauges in the eastern Great Plains, a shallow water table bias over many areas of the model domain, and low bias in seasonal total water storage amplitude especially for the Ohio, Missouri and Arkansas river basins. We discuss several potential sources for model bias and suggest that minimizing error in topographic processing and meteorological forcing would considerably improve model performance. Results here provide a benchmark and guidance for further PFCONUS model development, and they highlight the importance of concurrently evaluating all hydrologic components and fluxes to provide a multivariate, holistic validation of the complete modeled water balance.

Mary M. F. O'Neill et al.

Status: open (until 14 Apr 2021)
Status: open (until 14 Apr 2021)
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Mary M. F. O'Neill et al.

Mary M. F. O'Neill et al.


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Short summary
Modeling the hydrologic cycle at high resolution and at large spatial scales is an incredible opportunity and challenge for hydrologists. In this paper, we present the results of a high resolution hydrologic simulation configured over the contiguous United States. We discuss simulated water fluxes through groundwater, soil, plants, and over land, and we compare model results to in situ observations and satellite products in order to build confidence and guide future model development.