One of the important issues in hydrological modelling is to specify the initial conditions of the catchment since it has a major impact on the response of the model. Although this issue should be a high priority among modelers, it has remained unaddressed by the community. The typical suggested warm-up period for the hydrological models has ranged from one to several years, which may lead to an underuse of data. The model warm-up is an adjustment process for the model to reach an ‘optimal’ state, where internal stores (e.g., soil moisture) move from the estimated initial condition to an ‘optimal’ state. This study explores the warm-up period of two conceptual hydrological models, HYMOD and IHACRES, in a southwestern England catchment. A series of hydrologic simulations were performed for different initial soil moisture conditions and different rainfall amounts to evaluate the sensitivity of the warm-up period. Evaluation of the results indicates that both initial wetness and rainfall amount affect the time required for model warm up, although it depends on the structure of the hydrological model. Approximately one and a half months are required for the model to warm up in HYMOD for our study catchment and climatic conditions. In addition, it requires less time to warm up under wetter initial conditions (i.e., saturated initial conditions). On the other hand, approximately six months is required for warm-up in IHACRES, and the wet or dry initial conditions have little effect on the warm-up period. Instead, the initial values that are close to the optimal value result in less warm-up time. These findings have implications for hydrologic model development, specifically in determining soil moisture initial conditions and warm-up periods to make full use of the available data, which is very important for catchments with short hydrological records.
- Conceptual hydrological model
- Equilibrium state
- Soil moisture
- Warm-up period