Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Modeling sediment yield in small catchments at event scale: Model comparison, development and evaluation

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 14:40
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Sediment yield (SY) has significant impacts on river biogeochemistry and aquatic ecosystems but it is rarely represented in Earth System Models (ESMs). Existing SY models focus on estimating SY from large river basins or individual catchments so it is not clear how well they simulate SY in ESMs at larger spatial scales and globally. In this study, we compare the strengths and weaknesses of eight well-known SY models in simulating annual mean SY at about 400 small catchments ranging in size from 0.22 to 200 km2 in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. In addition, we also investigate the performance of these models in simulating event-scale SY at six catchments in the US using high-quality hydrological inputs. The model comparison shows that none of the models can reproduce the SY at large spatial scales but the Morgan model performs the better than others despite its simplicity. In all model simulations, large underestimates occur in catchments with very high SY. A possible pathway to reduce the discrepancies is to incorporate sediment detachment by landsliding, which is currently not included in the models being evaluated. We propose a new SY model that is based on the Morgan model but including a landsliding soil detachment scheme that is being developed. Along with the results of the model comparison and evaluation, preliminary findings from the revised Morgan model will be presented.

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