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Evaluating the usefulness of soil moisture (forecasts) in streamflow prediction for central Texas


The past decade has brought significant advancements in seasonal climate forecasting. However, water resources decision support and management continues to be based almost entirely on historical observations and does not take advantage of climate forecasts. This study builds on previous work that conditioned streamflow ensemble forecasts on observable climate indicators, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) for use in a decision support model for the Highland Lakes multi-reservoir system in central Texas operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). In the current study, seasonal soil moisture is explored as a climate indicator and predictor of annual streamflow for the LCRA region. The main purpose of this study is to evaluate the correlation of fractional soil moisture with streamflow using the 1950-2000 Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) Retrospective Land Surface Data Set over the LCRA region. Correlations were determined by examining different annual and seasonal combinations of VIC modeled fractional soil moisture and observed streamflow. The applicability of the VIC Retrospective Land Surface Data Set as a data source for this study is tested along with establishing and analyzing patterns of climatology for the watershed study area using the selected data source (VIC model) and historical data. Correlation results showed potential for the use of soil moisture as a predictor of streamflow over the LCRA region. This was evident by the good correlations found between seasonal soil moisture and seasonal streamflow during coincident seasons as well as between seasonal and annual soil moisture with annual streamflow during coincident years. With the findings of good correlation between seasonal soil moisture from the VIC Retrospective Land Surface Data Set with observed annual streamflow presented in this study, future research would evaluate the application of NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecasts of soil moisture in predicting annual streamflow for use in the decision support model for the LCRA

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This paper was published in Michigan Technological University.

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