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Application of the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin in the southeastern United States

September 5, 2013

A hydrologic model of the Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint River Basin (ACFB) has been developed as part of a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center effort to provide integrated science that helps resource managers understand the effect of climate change on a range of ecosystem responses. The hydrologic model was developed as part of the Southeast Regional Assessment Project using the Precipitation Runoff Modeling System (PRMS), a deterministic, distributed-parameter, process-based system that simulates the effects of precipitation, temperature, and land use on basin hydrology.

The ACFB PRMS model simulates streamflow throughout the approximately 50,700 square-kilometer basin on a daily time step for the period 1950–99 using gridded climate forcings of air temperature and precipitation, and parameters derived from spatial data layers of altitude, land cover, soils, surficial geology, depression storage (small water bodies), and data from 56 USGS streamgages. Measured streamflow data from 35 of the 56 USGS streamgages were used to calibrate and evaluate simulated basin streamflow; the remaining gage locations were used for model delineation only. The model matched measured daily streamflow at 31 of the 35 calibration gages with Nash-Sutcliffe Model Efficiency Index (NS) greater than 0.6. Streamflow data for some calibration gages were augmented for regulation and water use effects to represent more natural flow volumes. Time-static parameters describing land cover limited the ability of the simulation to match historical runoff in the more developed subbasins.

Overall, the PRMS simulation of the ACFB provides a good representation of basin hydrology on annual and monthly time steps. Calibration subbasins were analyzed by separating the 35 subbasins into five classes based on physiography, land use, and stream type (tributary or mainstem). The lowest NS values were rarely below 0.6, whereas the median NS for all five classes was within 0.74 to 0.96 for annual mean streamflow, 0.89 to 0.98 for mean monthly streamflow, and 0.82 to 0.98 for monthly mean streamflow. The median bias for all five classes was within –4.3 to 0.8 percent for annual mean streamflow, –6.3 to 0.5 percent for mean monthly streamflow, and –9.3 to 1.3 percent for monthly mean streamflow. The NS results combined with the percent bias results indicated a good to very good streamflow volume simulation for all subbasins.

This simulation of the ACFB provides a foundation for future modeling and interpretive studies. Streamflow and other components of the hydrologic cycle simulated by PRMS can be used to inform other types of simulations; water-temperature, hydrodynamic, and ecosystem-dynamics simulations are three examples. In addition, possible future hydrologic conditions could be studied using this model in combination with land cover projections and downscaled general circulation model results.