Global runoff routing with the hydrological component of the ECMWF NWP system

F. Pappenberger*, H. L. Cloke, G. Balsamo, T. Ngo-Duc, T. Oki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


A global river routing scheme coupled to the ECMWF land surface model is implemented and tested within the framework of the Global Soil Wetness Project II, to evaluate the feasibility of modelling global river runoff at a daily time scale. The exercise is designed to provide benchmark river runoff predictions needed to verify the land surface model. Ten years of daily runoff produced by the HTESSEL land surface scheme is input into the TRIP2 river routing scheme in order to generate daily river runoff. These are then compared to river runoff observations from the Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC) in order to evaluate the potential and the limitations. A notable source of inaccuracy is bias between observed and modelled discharges which is not primarily due to the modelling system but instead of to the forcing and quality of observations and seems uncorrelated to the river catchment size. A global sensitivity analysis and Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation (GLUE) uncertainty analysis are applied to the global routing model. The ground water delay parameter is identified as being the most sensitive calibration parameter. Significant uncertainties are found in results, and those due to parameterisation of the routing model are quantified. The difficulty involved in parameterising global river discharge models is discussed. Detailed river runoff simulations are shown for the river Danube, which match well observed river runoff in upstream river transects. Results show that although there are errors in runoff predictions, model results are encouraging and certainly indicative of useful runoff predictions, particularly for the purpose of verifying the land surface scheme hydrologicly. Potential of this modelling system on future applications such as river runoff forecasting and climate impact studies is highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2155-2174
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010


  • Global
  • Hydrology
  • Large scale
  • Routing
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Uncertainty analysis


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