Impact of precipitation spatial resolution on the hydrological response of an integrated distributed water resources model

Suhua Fu, Torben O. Sonnenborg, Karsten H. Jensen, Xin He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Precipitation is a key input variable to hydrological models, and the spatial variability of the input is expected to impact the hydrological response predicted by a distributed model. In this study, the effect of spatial resolution of precipitation on runoff, recharge and groundwater head was analyzed in the Alergaarde catchment in Denmark. Six different precipitation spatial resolutions were used as inputs to a physically based, distributed hydrological model, the MIKE SHE model. The results showed that the resolution of precipitation input had no apparent effect on annual water balance of the total catchment and runoff discharge hydro-graph at watershed outlet. On the other hand, groundwater recharge and groundwater head were both affected. The impact of the spatial resolution of precipitation input is reduced with increasing catchment size. The effect on stream discharge is relatively low for a catchment size above 250 km 2, and the effect is negligible when the entire catchment area of approximately 1000 km 2 is considered. In the present case the highest resolution of 500 m was found to result in the best representation of the hydrological response at subcatchment scale. Stream discharge, groundwater recharge, and groundwater head were also affected by the method for correction of systematic errors in precipitation measurements. The results underscored the importance of using a spatial resolution of the precipitation input that captures the overall precipitation characteristics for the considered catchment or subcatchment. As long as the average precipitation of the considered catchment or subcatchment is accurately estimated, the spatial resolution seems less important when the integrated response in the form of stream flow is considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • DK-model

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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