A common statistical procedure for estimating streamflow statistics at ungaged locations is to develop a relational model between streamflow and drainage basin characteristics at gaged locations using least squares regression analysis; however, least squares regression methods are parametric and make constraining assumptions about the data distribution. The random forest regression method provides an alternative nonparametric method for estimating streamflow characteristics at ungaged sites and requires that the data meet fewer statistical conditions than least squares regression methods.
Random forest regression analysis was used to develop predictive models for 89 streamflow characteristics using Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System simulated streamflow data and drainage basin characteristics at 179 sites in central and eastern Montana. The predictive models were developed from streamflow data simulated for current (baseline, water years 1982–99) conditions and three future periods (water years 2021–38, 2046–63, and 2071–88) under three different climate-change scenarios. These predictive models were then used to predict streamflow characteristics for baseline conditions and three future periods at 1,707 fish sampling sites in central and eastern Montana. The average root mean square error for all predictive models was about 50 percent. When streamflow predictions at 23 fish sampling sites were compared to nearby locations with simulated data, the mean relative percent difference was about 43 percent. When predictions were compared to streamflow data recorded at 21 U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations outside of the calibration basins, the average mean absolute percent error was about 73 percent.
|Title||Estimating current and future streamflow characteristics at ungaged sites, central and eastern Montana, with application to evaluating effects of climate change on fish populations|
|Authors||Roy Sando, Katherine J. Chase|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Scientific Investigations Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||WY-MT Water Science Center|