U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 9, No. 2, March 1, 2004.


Currently, the river forecasting system deployed in each of 13 River Forecast Centers of the National Weather Service primarily uses lumped parameter models to generate hydrologic simulations. With the deployment of the weather surveillance radar 1988 Doppler radars, more and more precipitation data with high spatial and temporal resolution have become available for hydrologic modeling. Hydrologists inside and outside the National Weather Service are now investigating how to effectively use these data to enhance river-forecasting capabilities. In this paper, six years of continuously simulated hydrographs from an eight-subbasin model are compared to those from a single-basin (or lumped) model, both applied to the Blue River basin (1,232 km2) in Oklahoma. The Sacramento soil moisture accounting model is used to generate runoff in all cases. Synthetic unit hydrographs for each subbasin convey the water to the outlet of the basin without explicit flow routing. Subdividing the basin into eight subbasins captures spatially variable rainfall reflected in the next generation weather radar products and produces improved results without greatly increasing the computational and data requirements. Strategies for calibrating the hydrologic model parameters for multiple subbasins are explored.