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Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

Application of a geographic information system for conceptual

rainfall±runoff modeling
A.H. Schumann a,*, R. Funke b, G.A. Schultz a
Institute of Hydrology, Water Resources Management and Environmental Techniques, Ruhr University Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany
Kisters AG, Charlottenburger Allee 5, 52068 Aachen, Germany
Received 18 June 1999; revised 30 May 2000; accepted 25 August 2000

Geographic information systems (GIS) offer many new opportunities for hydrological modeling. They can be used to form
spatially distributed models of watershed. However, some problems of this approach, e.g. the parameterization of physically
based models, are not resolved yet. Conceptual models of the meso-scale still have a great practical importance. In this paper
one approach is presented: how statistical descriptions of distributed catchment characteristics could be used to consider spatial
heterogeneity within conceptual models. Three semi-distributed modules are presented. The three components are combined to
a hydrological model including feedback components between surface ¯ow and in®ltration and between subsurface return ¯ow
and surface ¯ow in saturated areas. The model was set up to use spatially distributed information about catchment character-
istics for the estimation of its parameters. By a direct estimation of some model parameters from a GIS-based analysis of the
catchment characteristics, the number of calibration parameters can be reduced. In the second part it is shown how the
application of this model to different catchments within a region can bene®t from boundary conditions for optimization,
which are derived from a GIS considering the differences of catchment characteristics. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All
rights reserved.
Keywords: Hydrological modeling; Conceptual parameters; Geographic information system; Optimization; Regionalization

1. Introduction ing the composite runoff curve number for a drainage

basin with the widely used SCS model (Pilgrim and
The large amount of spatially detailed information Cordery, 1992) from its land use data and digitized
derived from remote sensing, ground surveys (e.g. digi- soil maps.
tal maps, digital terrain models) or interpolation of point ² Estimation of lumped catchment characteristics
measurements and handled within a geographic infor- with a GIS considering spatial heterogeneity of a
mation system (GIS), offers new opportunities for catchment for parameterization of a lumped model.
hydrologic modeling. Some options are: Some examples for this approach will be discussed
² The use of a GIS to improve the estimation of para- ² The use of a distributed catchment characteristic as
meters in existing conceptual models, e.g. determin- a covariant mean to distribute a lumped state vari-
able. An example is the use of the topographic
* Corresponding author. Fax: 149-234-32-14153.
index in the well-known TOP-model as a charac-
E-mail address: teristic of the spatial variability of the soil water
(A.H. Schumann). content (Beven et al., 1984).
0022-1694/00/$ - see front matter q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0022-169 4(00)00312-7
46 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

² Subdivision of the catchment into so-called ªhydro- mined by calibration, the parameters lose their precise
logic response unitsº (HRUs), which are similar physical signi®cance and may be of a magnitude quite
with regard to selected characteristics and which different from measured values. Owing to this fact,
are modeled separately, as in e.g. the precipita- distributed hydrologic models are not truly physically
tion±runoff modeling system (PRMS) of Leavesley based but rather a special category of conceptual
et al. (1983). models (Beven, 1989).
² Subdivision of the catchment into equally spaced Considering these issues about physically based
square grid elements and representation of the models and parameter values in distributed models,
hydrologic processes in these units by a parameter the question arises as to how GIS could be used as a
set in which the physical characteristics of the units new base of conceptual hydrologic modeling. One
are considered. An example is the SHE model option is mentioned above: we can use the GIS to
(Abbott et al., 1986). improve the estimation of parameters in existing
conceptual models. This is a very limited use of the
The last two options mentioned lead to distributed available information and the power of the GIS. There
hydrological models, in which the spatial heterogene- is no reason to limit ourselves to model parameteriza-
ity of catchment characteristics is usually represented tions that were developed decades ago in an era with-
by small area elements which are considered as homo- out the information and computing facilities available
genous. Subdividing a catchment into spatial units is today.
also useful with regard to the areal distribution of However, other options to develop or improve
meteorological inputs. Under the assumption of homo- conceptual models also exist. The main problem
geneity of the area elements micro-scale-based consists in the consideration of the spatial variability
process models can be used. However, the physical of physical characteristics which are relevant for the
characteristics within each grid cell may be still non-linear behavior of a catchment. Examples of use
heterogeneous. By reducing the size of the grid of spatial heterogeneity in lumped model parameters
cells, this heterogeneity would be reduced, but the or catchment characteristics from literature are the
disadvantages of a very detailed resolution consist Xinanjiang model, in which an uneven distribution
not only in an increase of computational requirements of tension water capacity in a catchment is approxi-
but also in a very complex model structure owing to mated with a non-linear function (Zhao, 1992) or the
the need to describe more interactions among the concept of the geomorphological instantaneous unit
resulting small spatial units. Physically based models hydrograph in connection with a parameterization
of micro- (or point-) scale processes were developed which is based on a lumped representation of the
for well-de®ned physical conditions. In distributed river network with path probabilities and path lengths
modeling of the meso-scale they are used for spatial (Snell and Sivapalan, 1994). Unfortunately, a GIS-
units of some 100 m 2. As a result, the applicability of based consideration of heterogeneity within concep-
these models at the meso-scale is limited by unre- tual models also does not eliminate the general
solved problems of their parameterization (Grayson problems to estimate the values of conceptual model
et al., 1993). The required model parameters (e.g. parameters.
soil characteristics) cannot be measured for catch- Here an event-based rainfall±runoff model will be
ments in the order of hundreds of km 2 or larger, presented in which the heterogeneity of certain catch-
they must be derived using transfer functions and ment characteristics is considered by lumped model
other assumptions from known catchment characteris- parameters, which describes averaged catchment
tics, e.g. from soil texture classes. ªRepresentativeº or characteristics as well as their heterogeneity. The
ªeffectiveº values of parameters are commonly used parameters can be derived directly from a GIS-analy-
to bridge the gap between a micro-scale model and its sis. This model consists of three components. For each
use at the meso-scale. Unfortunately, the transfer func- of these components a spatial differentiation with
tions depend not only on the used model type but also regard to one physical characteristic which is seen
on the heterogeneity of the catchment and on the as most relevant for a speci®c hydrological process
spatial scale used. Since they usually have to be deter- is combined with a lumped description of the
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 47


Process: infiltration, runoff other soil texture

Unit: soil texture
Catchment Characteristics: soil parameters soil storage capacity
Description: effective parameters distribution function
State Variables: saturated and non-saturated areas, soil water
content, surface water storage
Results: surface runoff, interflow, percolation

Disaggregation partitions of vegetation types

Process : runoff formation other vegetation types

Unit: soil vegetation
Catchment Characteristics: slope surface roughness transmissivity
Description: distributed eff. Parameter saturated,
per unit non-saturated
State Variables: velocity of lateral flows,
drainage areas per time step
Results: lateral fluxes of water

Disaggregation transition frequencies, partition of runoff which flows from a

certain soil vegetation comb. to another or runs into the river

other soil vegetation combinations

Disaggregation partition of runoff from a certain area soil vegetation comb.

which drains into a certain pathway of the river network

Process: runoff concentration

Unit: River network,
resolved into pathways
Catchment Characteristics: dispersion advection length inflow
Description: effective effective value per distributed
parameter parameter pathway per pathway
State Variables: inflow per pathway in each time step

Fig. 1. Coupling three process models (runoff generation, runoff formation and concentration) to form the rainfall±runoff model.

heterogeneity of other characteristics which are also 2. Model structure and GIS-based model
important for this process. The model is based on a components
GIS with data in a high spatial resolution
(50 m £ 50 m) in which the following catchment char- 2.1. General structure
acteristics are stored: soil type, land cover, slope,
elevation and drainage network estimated from the The model structure is based on the classical
digital elevation model. The main advantage of this approach of three different hydrological processes:
approach consists in the reduction of the number of runoff generation (vertical hillslope processes), runoff
conceptual parameters. formation on hillslopes (lateral hillslope processes)
48 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

and runoff concentration within the river network. The is done according to the partial areas of the soil texture
three model components are: unit which is covered by a speci®c type of vegetation.
The lateral ¯uxes of water between the resulting soil±
² a component describing the in®ltration and runoff vegetation combinations which reach the river
generation process in the upper soil layer applying network are again summarized according to the speci-
distribution functions of soil storage capacity ®c pathways of the drainage system which drains
derived from an overlay of soil and land cover them. In what follows the three modules are described
maps; in detail.
² a component for lateral ¯ow on hillslopes under
consideration of the interactions of different soil± 2.2. Runoff generation and the soil storage
vegetation combinations; distribution
² a component for the runoff concentration process
within the river network applying a parameteriza- For the runoff generation the soil parameters, which
tion of the geomorphological unit hydrograph, determine the in®ltration process, are seen as most
proposed by Snell and Sivapalan (1994). relevant physical characteristics. A physically based
in®ltration model (e.g. the used Green±Ampt model)
The subdivision into these components is process needs physical soil characteristics such as hydraulic
related. For their combination the following problem conductivity, porosity, ®eld capacity, and wetting
exists: in order to consider the spatial heterogeneity front suction. With respect to soil texture classes
for each component the catchment is subdivided into these parameters can be assumed (Rawls et al.,
speci®c spatial units which are chosen with regard to 1983). As unit of the distributed in®ltration model
the most relevant physical characteristics of the speci- the soil texture class can be used. Another very impor-
®c hydrological process. The heterogeneity of other tant characteristic of the soil which in¯uences the
characteristics of relevance for the speci®c process runoff generation is the soil storage capacity. In
model is described in two different ways, i.e. by distri- many models and also in the model discussed here
bution functions or by averaged (representative) para- the out¯ow from the soil storage is related to the
meter values. As the subdivision into spatial units relative storage content. Unfortunately, the depth of
differs between the different process models the ¯uxes the upper soil zone within a catchment is mostly
of water from each spatial unit must be summarized at unknown. If we keep up the classical de®nition of
the interface between the different modules and soil horizons we can estimate the depth of upper
distributed again among the spatial units of the next (rooted) soil in relation to the type of vegetation.
model component. The general structure of the result- Our hypothesis is that the storage capacity of upper,
ing model is shown in Fig. 1. The three tables within non-saturated soil can be expressed by the product of
this ®gure represent the units of the three process effective soil porosity above ®eld capacity and root
components. In the following sections the three depth. We assume a jump in the vertical soil perme-
model components and their interactions and feed- ability at the bottom of the root zone. First, our catch-
back are explained with respect to their structure ment is subdivided into units of different soil textures.
and their parameterization. After that, each of these units is overlaid by different
The ®rst module is based on a subdivision of the types of vegetation classi®ed according to rooting
catchment into spatial units which are de®ned by the depth. The heterogeneity of the storage capacity of
soil texture. The heterogeneity of the soil storage the upper soil, derived from an overlay of the soil
capacity which is caused (by de®nition) by the map with types of vegetation can be considered by a
depth of the root zone is considered in the form of a distribution function SB(a) (Schumann, 1993). SB(a)
distribution function. The second module describes expresses the storage capacity of the upper soil layer
the lateral ¯ow of water at hillslopes. To consider which is not exceeded for the relative partition a of the
different characteristics of roughness the ¯ow compo- total area of the soil texture. Such linear or non-linear
nents of each soil texture unit are distributed among distribution functions are widely used in conceptual
the vegetation types which cover it. This distribution hydrological models (Franchini and Pacciani, 1991;
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 49



RO(t) SBact(t)
INF(t) ∆t

a=0 a=1,0

Fig. 2. Bucket model for the upper soil layer with three-parametric distribution function SB(a) of soil storage capacity.

Wood et al., 1991). They are used to describe the percolation PER, which are the out¯ows from the soil
degree of saturation of the upper soil during a rainfall storage:
event by the saturated part of the area.
We use this distribution function of the soil storage Zt
SBact …t† ˆ SBact …t 2 Dt† 1 …INF…t† 2 RH…t†
capacity in the following three-parametric non-linear t 2 Dt
form (Funke, 1999)
2 PER…t†† dt: (2)
SB…a† ˆ SBMax 2 …SBMax 2 SBMin † £ …1 2 a† …1†
From the distribution function of the soil storage
The three parameters are the maximum storage capa- capacity SB(a) and the actual soil water level SBact
city SBMax the minimum capacity SBMin and the shape the saturated proportion of the area at simulation
parameter B describing the non-linear shape of the time t is de®ned for each soil texture by the following
distribution between minimum and maximum of condition:
each spatial unit. In this form it is possible to consider
minimum and maximum storage capacity. This is SBact …t† $ SB…a†: …3†
much closer to nature than the assumption of a mini-
mum storage capacity of zero (SBMin ˆ 0) used by The saturated part of the catchment as …t† at time t
Franchini and Pacciani (1991) or Wood et al. resulting from the actual storage content SBact(t) is:
(1991). The proportion of the catchment with an
equal or smaller soil storage capacity than SB is a. as …t† ˆ 0 for SBact …t† # SBMin
The application of this function in a typical bucket SBMax 2 SBact …t†
as …t† ˆ 1 2 for SBMin , SBact …t† , SBMax
assumption of a conceptual model, is shown in Fig. 2. SBMax 2 SBMin
The temporally variable soil water level SBact as …t† ˆ 1 for SBact …t† ˆ SBMax
within the bucket model of every unit can be calcu- …4†
lated for every time t at the end of a simulation inter-
val with a duration of Dt from the in®ltration rate INF, The maximal amount of water, which can be stored in
computed by application of the Green and Ampt in®l- the upper soil WMax results from the integration of the
tration model minus the subsurface ¯ow RH and the distribution function SB ˆ SB(a) between a ˆ 0 and
50 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

0.4 0.4
capacityt [m]

capacityt [m]
0.3 0.3
SBmin = 0.04 m

SBmax = 0.25 m
0.2 loamy sand 0.2 B = 1.53
SBmin = 0.04 m
0.1 SBmax = 0.37 m 0.1
B = 0.44
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
rel. area [-] rel. area [-]

0.4 0.4
silty clay loam clay

capacityt [m]
capacityt [m]

SBmin = 0.03 m SBmin = 0.02 m

0.3 0.3

SBmax = 0.16 m SBmax = 0.12 m

0.2 B = 1.63 0.2 B = 1.49
0.1 0.1

0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
rel. area [-] rel. area [-]
Fig. 3. Storage capacity distribution of the upper soil layer in the Alsdorf catchment (264 km 2) with ®tted distribution functions SB(a) for four
different soil texture classes.

a ˆ 1: For the computation of the amount of subsurface

Z1 Z1 ¯ow RH in the time step t of the duration Dt we use the
WMax ˆ SB…a† da ˆ SBMax 2 …SBMax 2 SBMin † following non-linear equation:
0 0
Wact …t† CHEX
SBMax 2 BSBMin RH…t† ˆ CH …7†
£ …1 2 a†1=B da ˆ (5) WMax
It has two conceptual parameters, one exponent
The actual water content of the soil storage results CHEX and one factor CH. The factor CH describes
from a summation of the soil storage capacity of the the possible maximum subsurface ¯ow rate for the
saturated areas (area as …t†† and the actual soil water saturated soil in the spatial unit of simulation, the
content of the unsaturated areas: exponent CHEX the non-linear relationship between
Zas Z1 runoff formation and actual soil water content.
Wact …t† ˆ SB…a† da 1 SBact …t† da For the computation of the amount of percolated
0 as
water PER, a similar approach is used:
SBMax 2 SBMin  
ˆ SBMax as 2 ‰1 2 …1 Wact …t† CBEX
1 1 …1=B† PER ˆ CVSAT …8†
2 as …t†11…1=B† Š 1 SBact …t†…1 2 as …t†† …6†
In this equation two further conceptual parameters are
The relative water content of the soil storage (the used, the maximum percolation rate CVSAT of the
actual water content Wact …t† in relation to maximal saturated soil and the exponent CBEX.
soil storage content WMax) at time t (end of a simula- As shown above, the distribution function of the
tion time interval) is used to compute the actual rates soil storage capacity is a very important characteristic
of percolation and subsurface ¯ow. These rates are of the model. By our hypothesis (the soil storage
assumed to be constant during the duration Dt of the capacity is the product of root depth and effective
simulation time interval from t 2 Dt to t. soil porosity) this distribution can be estimated
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 51

directly for each soil texture class from a GIS-analysis vegetation typeº of the hillslope model, the physical
by an overlay of the soil texture map and land cover, characteristics, soil and vegetation are homogeneous
obtained e.g. from remote sensing data by satellites. but slope, a very relevant characteristic for lateral
From these data one can construct a discrete function ¯ows, is still heterogeneous. As the slope varies
SB ˆ SB(a), which can be approximated by analytical strongly within a small scale, a grid-based process
functions to be used in the hydrological model as description was chosen. Each grid square with a
described above. Fig. 3 shows, as an example, the chosen width of 50 m is characterized by its slope,
empirical distributions and the ®tted functions for ¯ow direction, vegetation and soil type.
the four different soil texture classes in a catchment Under the assumption that we can use an approach
together with the relevant model parameters SBMin, that is similar to Manning's formula (the ¯ow velocity
SBMax and B. The shapes of the ®tted functions vary depends on the slope and on the depth of water at the
according to the land cover within the different soil soil surface in a non-linear way) to estimate the velo-
texture classes. The values of SBMin and SBMax city of surface ¯ow, we obtain:
decrease with decreasing effective porosity from coar- p
ser soils like loamy sand to ®ner soils like clay. The v…t† ˆ kr H…t†2=3 I …9†
shape parameter B is related to the distribution of where kr is the roughness (which depends on land
different land covers and corresponding root depth. cover), I the slope, H…t† the depth of water at the
With increasing forest areas with deep roots, the soil surface and t the simulation time, and the Darcy
shape of the function is convex and B smaller than equation for subsurface ¯ow:
1. For increasing areas with shallow roots the shape is
v…t† ˆ ks I …10†
concave and the value of B greater than 1. The value
of parameter B is estimated by a GIS-based analysis where ks is the hydraulic conductivity, I the slope and t
for each soil texture directly. The exponents in Eqs. the simulation time.
(7) and (8) are conceptual parameters which have to In the upper soil layer the water content varies over
calibrated. Although their application within the time and we normally have unsaturated conditions in
model to express non-linearities are similar, these most parts of the soil storage. According to these
parameters are not related. conditions, we have to simulate the subsurface ¯ow
with an unsaturated hydraulic conductivity which
2.3. Lateral hillslope processes varies spatially, in time and also with water content
of the soil. An effective parameter, which describes
For the runoff formation on hillslopes the type of this behavior is the subsurface ¯ow rate RH(t) of the
vegetation and the soil type seem to be of much rele- non-linear soil storage. So, we made the assumption
vance. The vegetation determines the roughness of the that the Darcy equation can be rewritten as a linear
land surface as well as the depth of the soil storage. If velocity equation with effective parameters as
we further consider the in¯uence of soil texture on
v…t† ˆ RH…t†I …11†
subsurface ¯ow the resulting soil±vegetation combi-
nations are seen as most suitable units to describe tnjAs the slope is a temporal constant parameter it
lateral hillslope processes. These units can be related becomes possible to describe its impact on lateral
to the soil texture classes which were used previously surface ¯ow and on subsurface ¯ow by representative
for runoff generation modeling. The surface runoff ¯ow times, which can be computed for each soil±
and subsurface ¯ow from the different texture classes, vegetation combination under consideration of their
calculated in the runoff generation model, are distrib- speci®c surface roughness kr and effective dynamic
uted for the lateral hillslope processes among the hydraulic conductivity RH(t). In relation to the
different vegetation types that belong to each speci®c width Dx of the grid cells and the ¯ow direction w
soil texture class. For this distribution the percentages in the grid cell, the representative ¯ow time tr can be
of the different vegetation types that cover every soil estimated in which the surface runoff or the subsur-
texture class are used. face ¯ow with a depth of one unit passes a grid cell.
Within the next, more detailed spatial units, ªsoil± For the surface runoff we can use the following
52 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61


Σa (T )
i r

Tr Tr

Fig. 4. Example of a histogram of relative travel times for draining of a water droplet from a soil±vegetation combination; left hand side,
representative drainage times versus histogram of relative areas; right hand side, cumulative distribution function.

equations: combination in the catchment from the histogram of

slope frequency classes (see Fig. 4 for an example):
tr ˆ p if utan wu , 1 …12†
kr I cos w
² under the assumption of a speci®c roughness kr for
each vegetation type we receive a histogram of
tr ˆ p if utan wu $ 1: …13† travel times for the surface runoff;
kr I sin w ² if we use the well-known Darcy equation with an
For the subsurface ¯ow: assumption of an effective hydraulic conductivity
ks ˆ RH…t† we obtain a histogram for the travel
Dx times for subsurface ¯ow.
tr ˆ if utan wu , 1 …14†
I cos w
With this approach, it becomes possible to estimate
Dx the drained part of a soil±vegetation combination for
tr ˆ if utan wu $ 1: …15†
I sin w a given simulation interval and to calculate the water
The heterogeneity of the slope can be considered depth on the land surface …RO…t† £ Dt† and of the
by a histogram of slope classes for each soil± subsurface ¯ow …RH…t† £ Dt† for each time step with-
vegetation combination. With respect to its ¯ow out recalculation of all ¯ow paths directly from the
direction a representative time can be estimated distribution function of thePrepresentative travel time
in which the surface runoff with a depth of one Tr versus the relative area a:
unit passes a grid cell with a certain slope. The For an actual calculated surface runoff with the
total time after which a water droplet leaves a height RO…t† £ Dt; the real travel time T has to be
certain soil±vegetation combination depends on smaller than the simulation time step Dt, if the water
its ¯ow path. If we add up representative times should leave the soil±vegetation combination to
in which water passes the different grid cells in its another one or ¯ows into a river. To work with
pathway we get the total representative time span Manning's equation with the height h in m and typical
Tr, which is needed for water with the height of roughness parameters kr in m 1/3/s, we have to correct
one unit to ¯ow from one point within a soil± for this equation the surface runoff rate to m/h by a
vegetation combination to the border line with factor 0.001
any other soil±vegetation combination. Also,
these time spans have a distribution that can be Tr Tr
Tˆ 2=3
ˆ # Dt …16†
described empirically by a histogram of represen- H …0:001RO…t†Dt†2=3
tative travel times for each soil±vegetation com-
bination. Solving this equation in terms of the representa-
As a result, two histograms of representative travel tive travel times we get the maximum representa-
times can be estimated for every soil±vegetation tive travel time for an actual surface runoff to
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 53

same way, with

1.0 adrained(t) Tr
Tˆ # Dt …18†
as the maximum representative travel

Tr;max …t† ˆ DtRH…t† …19†

The subsurface draining part of the soil±vegetation
combination aH;drained …t† can be estimated from the
Tr,max (t) T* i distribution function of the representative subsurface
¯ow times.
Fig. 5. Utilization of the distribution function of drainage time for a
In the last step of these computations, the partitions
soil±vegetation combination to estimate the draining partition.
of the ¯ows between soil±vegetation combinations
are calculated. The effective surface and subsurface
leave the soil±vegetation combination: ¯ow components draining a speci®c combination are

Tr;max …t† ˆ Dt…0:001RO…t†Dt†2=3 …17† ROdrained …t† ˆ RO…t†aO;drained …t† …20†

By utilization of the distribution function of the soil± RHdrained …t† ˆ RH…t†aH;drained …t† …21†
vegetation combination, we can estimate the partition
aO;drained …t† of the soil±vegetation combination which The remaining parts of runoff are
drains on the surface to other combinations (Fig. 5). ROrem …t† ˆ RO…t†…1 2 aO;drained …t†† …22†
For an actual calculated subsurface ¯ow the maxi-
mum representative travel time is calculated in the RHrem …t† ˆ RH…t†…1 2 aH;drained …t†† …23†

K Outflow Frequencies from combination i to

j=1 2 3 River outflow
Out- 1 - 0 2 8 10
from 2 1 - 1 7 9
i 3 3 3 - 8 14
inflow 4 3 3 23 33
2. Estimation of Transition Frequencies
soil-vegetation- combination 1
soil-vegetation- combination 2
soil-vegetation- combination 3
flow direction κ Relative Outflow Frequencies from
combinations i to j
1. Grid-based Estimation of:
-flow direction j=1 2 3 River Tota l
-slope i
-borders between different
Out- 1 - 0 0.20 0.80 1.00
from 2 0.11 - 0.11 0.78 1.00
i 3 0.21 0.21 - 0.57 1.00

3. Relative Transition Frequencies

Fig. 6. Estimation of transition frequencies for soil±vegetation combinations.

54 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

In the next time interval the remaining surface runoff transition frequency from i to j, Ai the area of soil±
will be added to the precipitation and the remaining vegetation combination i, Aj the area of soil±vegeta-
subsurface runoff will be added to the actual soil water tion combination j, and n the number of water draining
level. combinations.
The draining parts of the runoff ¯ow into other The runoff reaching the river network is calculated
soil±vegetation combinations. In order to describe by
these interactions between different soil±vegetation
combinations, we count the number of grid elements ROinflow;River …t† ˆ ROdrained;i ki;River Ai …27†
for each soil±vegetation combination i, which drain iˆ1
into another soil±vegetation combination j by a GIS-
based analysis (i.e. we count grid cells of type i, which X
have a common border with every other combination j RHinflow;River …t† ˆ RHdrained;i ki;River Ai …28†
in the ¯ow direction). The ¯ow direction of each grid
cell within a raster-based GIS can be estimated from a In the next simulation step t 1 Dt, the in¯ow at the
digital elevation model. We obtain a matrix of transi- soil surface into a soil±vegetation combination
tion numbers with n runoff-producing soil±vegetation ROinflow …t† can be in®ltrated together with new preci-
combinations in its columns and …n 1 1† runoff- pitation P…t 1 Dt† and the remaining surface runoff of
receiving elements (all other soil±vegetation combi- the same soil±vegetation combination ROrem …t†: The
nations plus the river network) in its rows. The potential in®ltration rate for the runoff generation
elements Kij of this matrix are the number of grid model, which operates with the soil types as spatial
cells which drain directly from combination i into units of simulations is estimated as areal weighted
combination j. The relative transition frequencies mean of all potential in®ltration rates of the different
can be estimated as the quotient of transition numbers soil±vegetation combinations inside that soil type.
divided by the total number of drainage elements of a Also, the actual soil water level of the non-linear
certain soil±vegetation combination bucket has to be corrected for the next simulation step
Ki;j by lateral subsurface in¯ow from neighboring combi-
ki;j ˆ X
n : …24† nations, the remaining subsurface runoff and the new
Ki;j in®ltration. If this correction is higher than the free
jˆ1 partition of the storage bucket of the soil type, the part
of the subsurface ¯ow that has not been stored returns
The methodology for estimating these frequencies is to the soil surface (the so-called return ¯ow). This
shown in Fig. 6. return ¯ow will be routed together with new surface
Using the drained ¯ows and the transition frequen- runoff and can in®ltrate together with the precipitation
cies kij , the in¯ow rates into other soil±vegetation of the next time step if the soil is not further saturated
combinations j can be estimated as or if it ¯ows to an area with unsaturated soil.
Ai With the coupled models for runoff generation and
ROinflow;j …t† ˆ ROdrained;i kij …25† the lateral ¯ows on and in hillslopes to rivers, the
interesting parts of the water ¯uxes for a rainfall±
runoff model are described. The percolation from
Ai the upper soil layer into deep soil is considered as a
RHinflow;j …t† ˆ RHdrained;i kij …26†
Aj loss since our model estimates only direct ¯ow
components. The base ¯ow in the river is not consid-
where ROinflow;j …t† is the lateral in¯ow rate of surface ered here.
runoff into combination j, ROdrained;i …t† the drained
surface runoff from soil±vegetation combination i, 2.4. GIS-based estimation of a two-dimensional
RHinflow;j …t† the lateral in¯ow rate of subsurface runoff system function for channel ¯ow
into combination j, RHdrained;i …t† the drained subsur-
face runoff from soil±vegetation combination i, kij the The linear advection±dispersion equation is an
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 55

often-used model for single-channel ¯ow: pathway g to the outlet can be computed using:

2Q 2Q 22 Q Av VY 21

1c ˆD 2 …29† pg ˆ p j . i and j # V; …i; j† [ g

2t 2x 2x Atotal iˆv ij
where c is the advective velocity, D the dispersion
coef®cient, Q the discharge, t the time, and x the where A v is the area which drains directly into a
distance along the longitudinal axis of the water- stream with the initial order v of this pathway, pij
course. the probability that a stream of order i runs into a
It can be shown that the solution of this differential stream of order j (where i and j are elements of path-
equation gives a two-dimensional response function way g ), Atotal the area of the catchment, and V the
on a Dirac impulse: order of the stream at the outlet.
The average length of the streams of an order v can
x …x 2 ct†2 be computed from the total lengths of the pathways of
h…x; t† ˆ p exp 2 …30† the same order:
2t pDt 4Dt
1X n

As the distance x from an in¯ow point to the outlet is Lv ˆ L : …33†

n iˆ1 v;i
considered as a second dimension of the impulse
response function (besides time), the out¯ow from The typical length of a pathway g is estimated by
the system can be derived from the following double summation

ZLmax Zt Lg ˆ Lv …34†
Q…t† ˆ qz …x; t†h…x; t 2 t† dt dx …31†
0 0
The runoff from the soil±vegetation combinations is
With this two-dimensional model, the in¯ow qz into distributed (time variant) among the pathways that are
the river network resulting from surface and subsur- different in their distance to the outlet Lg : The impulse
face hillslope runoff can be distributed along the river response function of the river network can be
channel network. This in¯ow distribution is time described by:
variant. Following a suggestion from Snell and Siva- !
1 X …Lg 2 ct†2
palan (1994) the river network was resolved into f …t† ˆ p pg Lg exp 2 …35†
2t pDt g 4Dt
different pathways as spatial units of the runoff
concentration model. Each of these pathways is repre- A time variant description of the spatial runoff distri-
sented by its drainage area and its length. The runoff bution can be obtained if the probability of a pathway
from a certain soil±vegetation combination g (the relation between the drainage area of this path-
…ROinflow;River …t† 1 RHinflow;River …t††; which reaches way ag and the total drainage area Atotal) is weighted
the river network, is distributed among the different with the relation between the actual runoff Rg …t† of the
pathways taking into consideration their speci®c drai- area ag and the mean runoff height Rtotal …t† of the total
nage area characteristics. The pathways are generated catchment Rtotal …t† :
with the aid of the Strahler ordering scheme (Strahler,
1957). All ¯ow paths are divided into a limited ag Rg …t†
pg ˆ …36†
number of ways describing the transition of water Atotal Rtotal …t†
between the initial order v into which a droplet is
injected and higher-ordered streams, until the outlet
with order V is reached. Each of these pathways 3. GIS-based parameterization strategy of the
drains a certain portion of the total catchment. The model
probability of a droplet of runoff produced at any
point within the catchment ¯owing via a certain The main advantage of the three model components
56 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

Start of parameterization in the

first catchment

Optimization Basic relationships

Start values transfer functions
Physical or
numerical Boundary conditions
boundary Calibration from formerly handled
conditions catchments

Sensitivity and regression analysis Parameters from
formerly handled
Contradictions Dependencies No
to parameters of between Contradictions
other catchments parameters

New New calibration
All catchments functions between
boundary under consideration
parameterized? catchment
conditions of the dependencies
no yes characteristics
and model
Next catchment parameters

End of parameterization

Fig. 7. Flow chart of the used parameterization strategy.

presented above, which were combined into a rain- calibrate different catchments of a region in a consis-
fall±runoff model, consists in the options to estimate tent way. The single steps of the procedure are numer-
at least some model parameters directly from a GIS. ical optimization, comparison and analyses of the
However, there is also another option to use a GIS in results from different catchments and a decision
conceptual modeling, which has not been mentioned about the change of parameter values in concert
yet. The information provided by the GIS about catch- with the relevant catchment characteristics (Fig. 7).
ment characteristics can be used also for optimization In the ®rst step, all conceptual model parameters
of model parameters, e.g. to de®ne boundary condi- are simultaneously optimized by a global optimiza-
tions. With a GIS-based parameterization of the tion strategy until a best ®t parameter set was identi-
model components also, the internal heterogeneity ®ed for every catchment. If we assume that our model
of catchment characteristics can be considered. The parameters have a physical explanation they are
remaining conceptual model parameters cannot be related to speci®c catchment characteristics, but
estimated directly from GIS-analysis and still have mostly in a relationship that is not known quantita-
to be quanti®ed by calibration. If several gauged tively. This relationship is hidden by the random char-
catchments within a region are available, we can esti- acter of the results of the numerical optimization. We
mate regional valid relationships between catchment can use, e.g. regression analysis to identify these rela-
characteristics and conceptual model parameters. tionships between optimized conceptual model para-
Therefore, an iterative procedure was developed to meters and the most relevant catchment
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 57

CBEX vs. 7,0
CBEX vs. ψ 7,0
CBEX vs. ψ


5,5 5,5 5,5

4,0 4,0 4,0

13,0 23,0 33,0 13,0 23,0 33,0 13,0 23,0 33,0
ψ ψ ψ

Fig. 8. Relationship between the conceptual parameter CBEX and wetting front suction c : left, after numerical optimization of CBEX and
CVSAT without consideration of the dependency between the two parameters; center, after replacement of parameter CVSAT by the hydraulic
conductivity of saturated soil (distributed for every soil texture in the catchment) and a second optimization of CBEX; right, after a third
optimization of CBEX with changed boundary conditions for outliers.

characteristics for a speci®c process. Also, sensitivity istics also for ungauged catchments of the same
analyses are used to identify the impact of the differ- region. Finally, the problem of unknown concep-
ent parameters on simulation results in the different tual parameters is solved by empirically estimated
catchments or to identify interdependencies between regional relationships between catchment charac-
different conceptual model parameters. At the end of teristics and model parameters. A restriction of
the ®rst parameterization, a decision has to be made this approach consists in its limited transferability
about the parameter consistency under consideration of catchments which are different from the used
of interdependencies and outliers. sample.
Then, in the second parameterization step, the
model parameters are optimized again but with utili-
zation of the new knowledge about interdependencies 4. A case study in the Pruem river basin/Germany
and boundary conditions. Particularly for catchments
with outlying parameters in the regression curves, In order to demonstrate the ability and the different
these parameters were optimized again with new steps of model parameterization with the aid of GIS-
boundary conditions. These new boundary conditions based catchment information, the rainfall±runoff
are de®ned taking into consideration the expected model described above was applied to seven gauged
relationship between model parameters and catch- catchments (areas between 18 and 576 km 2) within
ment characteristics, which was identi®ed for every the river basin of the Pruem river (840 km 2), a tribu-
optimized parameter by the regression analysis tary of the Mosel river in the western part of Germany.
between optimized parameters and catchment charac- Most of the model parameters were estimated by GIS-
teristics before. The relationship between catchment based analysis from the catchment characteristics. Six
characteristics and model parameters ®ts now in a conceptual model parameters out of 16 for each catch-
better way into a new repression curve than in the ment could not be estimated directly and had to be
®rst step. calibrated.
This procedure of parameter optimization and Altogether 56 ¯ood events were used for calibration
regression adjustment can be repeated until signi®cant and validation. Model calibration and validation were
and stable transfer functions between catchment char- done by split sampling of these historical events. The
acteristics and model parameters are received. The antecedent soil moisture was optimized as a state vari-
estimated regression functions then have the meaning able. The objective function used for minimizing the
of a regional transfer function, which can be used to overall simulation error F 2 of the m calibration storms
estimate model parameters from catchment character- in a single catchment is the ªmean square simulation
58 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

Fig. 9. Result of the sensitivity analysis of the percolation equation (8).

errorº F 2 parameter CBEX and the catchment characteristic

ªmean wetting front suction c º).
100 X
This fact is caused mainly by internal dependencies
F2 ˆ …1 2 EFFj †2 …37†
m jˆ1 between the two model parameters CH and CHEX of
the non-linear subsurface ¯ow computation formula
based on the simulation ef®ciency criterion EFF (Eq. (7)) and between the model parameters CVSAT
(Beven et al., 1984) for every storm j (optimum for and CBEX of the corresponding percolation function
EFF ˆ 1.0). The ef®ciency criterion is calculated from (8). These interrelationships between the parameters
the ordinates Qmeas;i and Qsim;i of the measured and can be described by sensitivity analyses. As an exam-
simulated direct runoff hydrographs and the mean ple, Fig. 9 shows a small ridge, where for each value
measured direct runoff QÅ meas of every storm: of parameter CVSAT, an exponent CBEX exists with
n X
n an optimal ef®ciency value. With the assumption that
…Q meas 2 Qmeas;i †2 2 …Qmeas;i 2 Qsim;i †2 the percolation depends mainly on the hydraulic
EFFj ˆ iˆ1 iˆ1
: conductivity of the saturated soil, we can replace the
conceptual parameter CVSAT with the ªphysicalº
…Q meas 2 Qmeas;i †2
parameter hydraulic conductivity ks
…38† CVSAT ˆ k s …39†
At the beginning of the GIS-supported parameter esti- The values of the hydraulic conductivity are estimated
mation the best ®t parameter values for all catchments from the GIS (from the digital soil map) for each soil
were estimated by a global gradient algorithm without texture in the catchment. As a result of this reparame-
taking catchment characteristics into consideration. terization it becomes possible to replace the concep-
By comparison of these ®tted parameter values, no tual parameter values of CVSAT for each soil texture.
correlation to any catchment characteristic could be We can now estimate the optimal values of a uniform
found (e.g. Fig. 8, left hand side for the model exponent CBEX for the whole catchment in Eq. (8),
A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61 59

Table 1
Results of an application of the developed model on some catchments in Germany, all mean errors were calculated with the calibration and
validation sets of ¯ood events

Gauge River Catchment Number Computational Computational error

area (km 2) of ¯ood error of peak ¯ow of runoff volume
events (mean in %) (mean in %)

Pruem Pruem 53 8 14.0 5.4

Sinspelt Enz 101 9 13.5 8.2
Echterhausen Pruem 323 11 10.3 7.4
Pruemzurlay Pruem 574 9 7.2 8.1
Giesdorf Nims 17 5 10.0 7.7
Seffern Nims 136 5 6.4 6.1
Alsdorf Nims 264 9 9.1 6.1

which belongs to these distributed values of CVSAT Then the exponent CHEX, which is used for the
(Fig. 8 center). Obviously, after this optimization, the computation of the subsurface ¯ow can also be related
parameter values CBEX show a relationship to the to the wetting front suction c .
wetting front suction c , which was estimated as a As result of this parameterization of Eqs. (7) and
weighted average of the different soil types within (8), the conceptual model re¯ects soil physics more
each catchment. In a third optimization with changed closely and the set of conceptual model parameters is
boundary conditions for these catchments, which are reduced from six to four parameters. The parameters
outliers of the regression between the conceptual CHEX and CBEX correlate physically correctly and
model parameter CBEX and the catchment character- strongly with the parameter ªwetting front suction c º
istic c , the residuals of the regional regression were (Rawls et al., 1983) of the Green and Ampt in®ltration
reduced (Fig. 8 right hand side). model. This relation can be described by a regression.
In Eq. (7), the parameter CH can be interpreted as Now the general relationship ªwith increasing wetting
the lateral transmissivity of the upper soil, which we front suction c the values of CHEX and CBEX
de®ne as the product of the hydraulic conductivity of increaseº is de®ned quantitatively by transfer func-
saturated soil ks and the actual water level within the tions in a regional speci®c way. With these two trans-
soil storage SBact(t). Now CH can be distributed to fer functions the parameter set could be reduced from
the soil units in the same way as CVSAT before. fourteen different values of the two parameters CHEX

Table 2
Utilization of GIS-procedures for model parameterizations

Parameterization Used catchment characteristics GIS-procedure

Estimation of distribution functions of Digital soil map land cover Overlay-procedure

soil storage capacity classi®cation

Estimation of drainage area±time Digital elevation model; digital soil Estimation of grid-based values of slope and ¯ow
functions on and in the hill slopes map land cover classi®cation direction; overlaying of soil and vegetation classes

Estimation of transition frequencies for Digital elevation model; digital soil Identi®cation of transitions between different soil±
water ¯uxes from one soil±vegetation map land cover classi®cation vegetation combinations
combination to another
Estimation of the distribution of Digital elevation model Computation of the river network; stream ordering;
drainage areas on different ¯ow paths in estimation of ¯ow lengths along different pathways;
the rivers estimation of the drainage areas of initial-order streams of
the different pathways
60 A.H. Schumann et al. / Journal of Hydrology 240 (2000) 45±61

and CBEX in seven catchments to four parameters of Some ideas about new GIS-based model compo-
the regressions, which are valid for all catchments nents and their possibilities and limitations to consider
within this region. Using this form of parameteriza- spatial heterogeneity of catchment characteristics
tion, only two conceptual parameters remain for each within the meso-scale were presented in the paper.
catchment (the parameters c and D in Eq. (29) of the A problem of semi-distributed conceptual models
runoff concentration model for the river network). In consists in the different spatial units which result
Table 1, the satisfactory results of the model applica- from the need to differentiate between vertical and
tion after a regional estimation of the conceptual para- lateral processes (soil bucket, hillslope, river
meters CVSAT, CH, CBEX, CHEX from catchment network). Here an aggregation and distribution of
characteristics are presented. By a lack of precipita- water ¯uxes from or into different units became neces-
tion data, it was not possible to test the model sary. Some tools for consideration of spatial hetero-
approach which was presented here also for continu- geneity of relevant physical characteristics within
ous simulations. these units were presented.
A GIS offers new ways to handle and use informa-
tion about catchment characteristics with a high
5. Summary and conclusions spatial resolution. These opportunities demand new
approaches in modeling. Some ideas regarding how
In this paper two different applications of GIS- conceptual models can bene®t from the new possibi-
based information were presented. In the ®rst applica- lities were presented here.
tion, a GIS was used to derive lumped catchment
characteristics, which describe the spatial heterogene-
ity within a catchment. These characteristics, which Acknowledgements
are listed in Table 2, can be used directly in model
components which were developed with the aim to The authors express their gratitude to the German
make good and effective use of the distributed infor- Research Foundation for ®nancial support.
mation base. The second application of the GIS is
dedicated to the regional model parameter estimation
taking catchment characteristics into consideration. References
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