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A Comparison of Methods for Streamflow Uncertainty Estimation
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Number of Authors: 152018 (English)In: Water resources research, ISSN 0043-1397, E-ISSN 1944-7973, Vol. 54, no 10, p. 7149-7176Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Streamflow time series are commonly derived from stage-discharge rating curves, but the uncertainty of the rating curve and resulting streamflow series are poorly understood. While different methods to quantify uncertainty in the stage-discharge relationship exist, there is limited understanding of how uncertainty estimates differ between methods due to different assumptions and methodological choices. We compared uncertainty estimates and stage-discharge rating curves from seven methods at three river locations of varying hydraulic complexity. Comparison of the estimated uncertainties revealed a wide range of estimates, particularly for high and low flows. At the simplest site on the Is&e River (France), full width 95% uncertainties for the different methods ranged from 3 to 17% for median flows. In contrast, uncertainties were much higher and ranged from 41 to 200% for high flows in an extrapolated section of the rating curve at the Mahurangi River (New Zealand) and 28 to 101% for low flows at the Taf River (United Kingdom), where the hydraulic control is unstable at low flows. Differences between methods result from differences in the sources of uncertainty considered, differences in the handling of the time-varying nature of rating curves, differences in the extent of hydraulic knowledge assumed, and differences in assumptions when extrapolating rating curves above or below the observed gaugings. Ultimately, the selection of an uncertainty method requires a match between user requirements and the assumptions made by the uncertainty method. Given the significant differences in uncertainty estimates between methods, we suggest that a clear statement of uncertainty assumptions be presented alongside streamflow uncertainty estimates. Plain Language Summary Knowledge of the uncertainty in streamflow discharge measured at gauging stations is important for water management applications and scientific analysis. This paper shows that uncertainty estimates vary widely (typically up to a factor of 4) when comparing seven recently introduced estimation methods. A clear understanding of the assumptions underpinning different uncertainty estimation methods and the sources of uncertainty included in their calculations is needed when selecting a method and using and presenting its uncertainty estimates.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 54, no 10, p. 7149-7176
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Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Biological Sciences
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162922DOI: 10.1029/2018WR022708ISI: 000450726000004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-162922DiVA, id: diva2:1272282
Available from: 2018-12-18 Created: 2018-12-18 Last updated: 2018-12-18Bibliographically approved

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Le Coz, JérômeSikorska, Anna E.Mansanarez, Valentin
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