Enhancing the structure of the WRF-hydro hydrologic model for semiarid environments

Timothy M. Lahmers, Hoshin Gupta, Christopher L. Castro, David J. Gochis, David Yates, Aubrey Dugger, David Goodrich, Pieter Hazenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


In August 2016, the National Weather Service Office of Water Prediction (NWS/OWP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) implemented the operational National Water Model (NWM) to simulate and forecast streamflow, soil moisture, and other model states throughout the contiguous United States. Based on the architecture of the WRF-Hydro hydrologic model, the NWM does not currently resolve channel infiltration, an important component of the water balance of the semiarid western United States. Here, we demonstrate the benefit of implementing a conceptual channel infiltration function (from the KINEROS2 semidistributed hydrologic model) into theWRF-Hydro model architecture, configured as NWM v1.1. After calibration, the updated WRF-Hydro model exhibits reduced streamflow errors for the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW) and the Babocomari River in southeast Arizona. Model calibration was performed using NLDAS-2 atmospheric forcing, available from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), paired with precipitation forcing from NLDAS-2, NCEP Stage IV, or local gauge precipitation. Including channel infiltration within WRF-Hydro results in a physically realistic hydrologic response in the WGEW, when the model is forced with high-resolution, gauge-based precipitation in lieu of a national product. The value of accounting for channel loss is also demonstrated in theBabocomari basin,where the drainage area is greater and the cumulative effect of channel infiltration ismore important.Accounting for channel infiltration loss thus improves the streamflow behavior simulated by the calibrated model and reduces evapotranspiration bias when gauge precipitation is used as forcing. However, calibration also results in increased high soil moisture bias,which is likely due to underlying limitations of theNWMstructure and calibration methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-714
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Hydrologic models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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