Civil and Environmental Engineering


Date of this Version



Valdés-Pineda, R.; Valdés, J.B.;Wi, S.; Serrat-Capdevila, A.; Roy, T. Improving Operational Short- to Medium-Range (SR2MR) Streamflow Forecasts in the Upper Zambezi Basin and Its Sub-Basins Using Variational Ensemble Forecasting. Hydrology 2021, 8, 188. 10.3390/hydrology8040188


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).


The combination of Hydrological Models and high-resolution Satellite Precipitation Products (SPPs) or regional Climatological Models (RCMs), has provided the means to establish baselines for the quantification, propagation, and reduction in hydrological uncertainty when generating streamflow forecasts. This study aimed to improve operational real-time streamflow forecasts for the Upper Zambezi River Basin (UZRB), in Africa, utilizing the novel Variational Ensemble Forecasting (VEF) approach. In this regard, we describe and discuss the main steps required to implement, calibrate, and validate an operational hydrologic forecasting system (HFS) using VEF and Hydrologic Processing Strategies (HPS). The operational HFS was constructed to monitor daily streamflow and forecast them up to eight days in the future. The forecasting process called short- to medium-range (SR2MR) streamflow forecasting was implemented using real-time rainfall data from three Satellite Precipitation Products or SPPs (The real-time TRMM Multisatellite Precipitation Analysis TMPA-RT, the NOAA CPC Morphing Technique CMORPH, and the Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed data using Artificial Neural Networks, PERSIANN) and rainfall forecasts from the Global Forecasting System (GFS). The hydrologic preprocessing (HPR) strategy considered using all raw and bias corrected rainfall estimates to calibrate three distributed hydrological models (HYMOD_DS, HBV_DS, and VIC 4.2.b). The hydrologic processing (HP) strategy considered using all optimal parameter sets estimated during the calibration process to increase the number of ensembles available for operational forecasting. Finally, inference-based approaches were evaluated during the application of a hydrological postprocessing (HPP) strategy. The final evaluation and reduction in uncertainty from multiple sources, i.e., multiple precipitation products, hydrologic models, and optimal parameter sets, was significantly achieved through a fully operational implementation of VEF combined with several HPS. Finally, the main challenges and opportunities associated with operational SR2MR streamflow forecasting using VEF are evaluated and discussed.