Rainfall maps that are derived from satellite observations provide hydrologists with an unprecedented opportunity to forecast floods globally. However, the limitation of using these precipitation estimates with respect to producing reliable flood forecasts at multiple scales are not well understood. To address the scientific and practical question of applicability of space-based rainfall products for global flood forecasting, a data evaluation framework is developed that allows tracking the rainfall effects in space and time across scales in the river network. This provides insights on the effects of rainfall product resolution and uncertainty. Obtaining such insights is not possible when the hydrologic evaluation is based on discharge observations from single gauges. The proposed framework also explores the ability of hydrologic model structure to answer questions pertaining to the utility of space-based rainfall observations for flood forecasting. To illustrate the framework, hydrometeorological data collected during the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) campaign in Iowa are used to perform a hydrologic simulation using two different rainfall-runoff model structures and three rainfall products, two of which are radar based [stage IV and Iowa Flood Center (IFC)] and one satellite based [TMPA-Research Version (RV)]. This allows for exploring the differences in rainfall estimates at several spatial and temporal scales and provides improved understanding of how these differences affect flood predictions at multiple basin scales. The framework allows for exploring the differences in peak flow estimation due to nonlinearities in the hydrologic model structure and determining how these differences behave with an increase in the upstream area through the drainage network. The framework provides an alternative evaluation of precipitation estimates, based on the diagnostics of hydrological model results.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Publication Status

Full Access

Keywords and Phrases

Hydrologic models; Hydrology; Models and modeling; Observational techniques and algorithms; Physical meteorology and climatology; Radars/radar observations; Satellite observations

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1525-7541; 1525-755X

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





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Publication Date

01 Jan 2016