Correcting errors in streamflow forecast ensemble mean and spread


Wood, A.W., Schaake, J.C. 2008. Correcting errors in streamflow forecast ensemble mean and spread. Journal of Hydrometeorology 9(1): 132-148.


When hydrological models are used for probabilistic streamflow forecasting in the Ensemble Streamflow Prediction (ESP) framework, the deterministic components of the approach can lead to errors in the estimation of forecast uncertainty, as represented by the spread of the forecast ensemble. One avenue for correcting the resulting forecast reliability errors is to calibrate the streamflow forecast ensemble to match observed error characteristics. This paper outlines and evaluates a method for forecast calibration as applied to seasonal streamflow prediction. The approach uses the correlation of forecast ensemble means with observations to generate a conditional forecast mean and spread that lie between the climatological mean and spread (when the forecast has no skill) and the raw forecast mean with zero spread (when the forecast is perfect). Retrospective forecasts of summer period runoff in the Feather River basin, California, are used to demonstrate that the approach improves upon the performance of traditional ESP forecasts by reducing errors in forecast mean and improving spread estimates, thereby increasing forecast reliability and skill.