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The role of station density for predicting daily runoff by top-kriging interpolation in Austria

Parajka, Juraj, Merz, Ralf, Skøien, Jon Olav, Viglione, Alberto
Vodohospodársky časopis 2015 v.63 no.3 pp. 228-234
basins, climate, data collection, gauges, hydrologic models, prediction, runoff, Austria
Direct interpolation of daily runoff observations to ungauged sites is an alternative to hydrological model regionalisation. Such estimation is particularly important in small headwater basins characterized by sparse hydrological and climate observations, but often large spatial variability. The main objective of this study is to evaluate predictive accuracy of top-kriging interpolation driven by different number of stations (i.e. station densities) in an input dataset. The idea is to interpolate daily runoff for different station densities in Austria and to evaluate the minimum number of stations needed for accurate runoff predictions. Top-kriging efficiency is tested for ten different random samples in ten different stations densities. The predictive accuracy is evaluated by ordinary cross-validation and full-sample crossvalidations. The methodology is tested by using 555 gauges with daily observations in the period 1987-1997. The results of the cross-validation indicate that, in Austria, top-kriging interpolation is superior to hydrological model regionalisation if station density exceeds approximately 2 stations per 1000 km² (175 stations in Austria). The average median of Nash-Sutcliffe cross-validation efficiency is larger than 0.7 for densities above 2.4 stations/1000 km². For such densities, the variability of runoff efficiency is very small over ten random samples. Lower runoff efficiency is found for low station densities (less than 1 station/1000 km2) and in some smaller headwater basins.