• ENABLING HYDROLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF MONTHLY TO SEASONAL PRECIPITATION FORECASTS IN THE CORE NORTH AMERICAN MONSOON REGION

      SHUTTLEWORTH, WILLIAM JAMES; Maitaria, Kazungu; SHUTTLEWORTH, WILLIAM JAMES; MULLEN, STEVEN L.; GOCHIS, DAVID J.; VALDES, JUAN B.; YATES, DAVID N. (The University of Arizona., 2009)
      The aim of the research undertaken in this dissertation was to use medium-range to seasonal precipitation forecasts for hydrologic applications for catchments in the core North American Monsoon (NAM) region. To this end, it was necessary to develop a better understanding of the physical and statistical relationships between runoff processes and the temporal statistics of rainfall. To achieve this goal, development of statistically downscaled estimates of warm season precipitation over the core region of the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) were developed. Currently, NAM precipitation is poorly predicted on local and regional scales by Global Circulation Models (GCMs). The downscaling technique used here, the K-Nearest Neighbor (KNN) model, combines information from retrospective GCM forecasts with simultaneous historical observations to infer statistical relationships between the low-resolution GCM fields and the locally-observed precipitation records. The stochastic nature of monsoon rainfall presents significant challenges for downscaling efforts and, therefore, necessitate a regionalization and an ensemble or probabilistic-based approach to quantitative precipitation forecasting. It was found that regionalization of the precipitation climatology prior to downscaling using KNN offered significant advantages in terms of improved skill scores.Selected output variables from retrospective ensemble runs of the National Centers for Environmental Predictions medium-range forecast (MRF) model were fed into the KNN downscaling model. The quality of the downscaled precipitation forecasts was evaluated in terms of a standard suite of ensemble verification metrics. This study represents the first time the KNN model has been successfully applied within a warm season convective climate regime and shown to produce skillful and reliable ensemble forecasts of daily precipitation out to a lead time of four to six days, depending on the forecast month.Knowledge of the behavior of the regional hydrologic systems in NAM was transferred into a modeling framework aimed at improving intra-seasonal hydrologic predictions. To this end, a robust lumped-parameter computational model of intermediate conceptual complexity was calibrated and applied to generate streamflow in three unregulated test basins in the core region of the NAM. The modeled response to different time-accumulated KNN-generated precipitation forcing was investigated. Although the model had some difficulty in accurately simulating hydrologic fluxes on the basis of Hortonian runoff principles only, the preliminary results achieved from this study are encouraging. The primary and most novel finding from this study is an improved predictability of the NAM system using state-of-the-art ensemble forecasting systems. Additionally, this research significantly enhanced the utility of the MRF ensemble forecasts and made them reliable for regional hydrologic applications. Finally, monthly streamflow simulations (from an ensemble-based approach) have been demonstrated. Estimated ensemble forecasts provide quantitative estimates of uncertainty associated with our model forecasts.