Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (May 2016)

HYPERstream: a multi-scale framework for streamflow routing in large-scale hydrological model

  • S. Piccolroaz,
  • M. Di Lazzaro,
  • A. Zarlenga,
  • B. Majone,
  • A. Bellin,
  • A. Fiori

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 20, no. 5
pp. 2047 – 2061


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We present HYPERstream, an innovative streamflow routing scheme based on the width function instantaneous unit hydrograph (WFIUH) theory, which is specifically designed to facilitate coupling with weather forecasting and climate models. The proposed routing scheme preserves geomorphological dispersion of the river network when dealing with horizontal hydrological fluxes, irrespective of the computational grid size inherited from the overlaying climate model providing the meteorological forcing. This is achieved by simulating routing within the river network through suitable transfer functions obtained by applying the WFIUH theory to the desired level of detail. The underlying principle is similar to the block-effective dispersion employed in groundwater hydrology, with the transfer functions used to represent the effect on streamflow of morphological heterogeneity at scales smaller than the computational grid. Transfer functions are constructed for each grid cell with respect to the nodes of the network where streamflow is simulated, by taking advantage of the detailed morphological information contained in the digital elevation model (DEM) of the zone of interest. These characteristics make HYPERstream well suited for multi-scale applications, ranging from catchment up to continental scale, and to investigate extreme events (e.g., floods) that require an accurate description of routing through the river network. The routing scheme enjoys parsimony in the adopted parametrization and computational efficiency, leading to a dramatic reduction of the computational effort with respect to full-gridded models at comparable level of accuracy. HYPERstream is designed with a simple and flexible modular structure that allows for the selection of any rainfall-runoff model to be coupled with the routing scheme and the choice of different hillslope processes to be represented, and it makes the framework particularly suitable to massive parallelization, customization according to the specific user needs and preferences, and continuous development and improvements.