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A crash-testing framework for predictive uncertainty assessment when forecasting high flows in an extrapolation context

Abstract : An increasing number of flood forecasting services assess and communicate the uncertainty associated with their forecasts. While obtaining reliable forecasts is a key issue, it is a challenging task, especially when forecasting high flows in an extrapolation context, i.e. when the event magnitude is larger than what was observed before. In this study, we present a crash-testing framework that evaluates the quality of hydrological forecasts in an extrapolation context. The experiment setup is based on (i) a large set of catchments in France, (ii) the GRP rainfall-runoff model designed for flood forecasting and used by the French operational services and (iii) an empirical hydrologic uncertainty processor designed to estimate conditional predictive uncertainty from the hydrological model residuals. The variants of the uncertainty processor used in this study differ in the data transformation they use (log, Box-Cox and log-sinh) to account for heteroscedasticity and the evolution of the other properties of the predictive distribution with the discharge magnitude. Different data subsets were selected based on a preliminary event selection. Various aspects of the prob-abilistic performance of the variants of the hydrologic uncertainty processor, reliability, sharpness and overall quality were evaluated. Overall, the results highlight the challenge of uncertainty quantification when forecasting high flows. They show a significant drop in reliability when forecasting high flows in an extrapolation context and considerable variability among catchments and across lead times. The increase in statistical treatment complexity did not result in significant improvement, which suggests that a parsimonious and easily understandable data transformation such as the log transformation or the Box-Cox transformation can be a reasonable choice for flood forecasting.
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Submitted on : Friday, April 24, 2020 - 4:07:37 PM
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Lionel Berthet, François Bourgin, Charles Perrin, Julie Viatgé, Renaud Marty, et al.. A crash-testing framework for predictive uncertainty assessment when forecasting high flows in an extrapolation context. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, European Geosciences Union, 2020, 24 (4), pp.2017-2041. ⟨10.5194/hess-24-2017-2020⟩. ⟨hal-02553693⟩

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