An Operational Real-Time and Seasonal Hydrologic Forecasting System (HFS) for the Upper Zambezi Basin, Africa

Bio Rodrigo Valdes is a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona. He is also an associate research scientist for the Technological Center for Environmental Hydrology (CTHA) at the University of Talca, Chile. He was recently appointed as Associate Professor at the University of Chile. His primary interest within the field of hydrology focuses on combining fieldwork and modeling approaches to facilitate understanding of the climatological, hydrological, and hydrogeological interactions occurring at catchment scale. His motivation is to use that knowledge to improve hydrologic forecasts and influence water governance at different management levels. His most recent research has been focused on the implementation of Remote Sensing Applications for Hydrologic Modeling. Valdes' doctoral study has focused specifically on the development and validation of Real-Time and Seasonal Hydrological Forecasting Systems (HFS) in pilot basins of Africa, using Satellite Precipitation Products (SPPs). More recently, he has collaborated with colleagues from the University of Illinois and the USDA on a research project to determine the primary influence of Atmospheric Rivers in the Hydrology of the Salt and Verde River Basins. Other ongoing research projects include the development and analysis of paleoclimatological records to reconstruct past hydroclimatic fields in Santiago de Chile and the use of stable isotopes records to understand the processes underlying surface and groundwater interactions in the mediterranean basins of Chile. See publications at Google Scholar and ResearchGate

Abstract for Weekly Colloquium on Thursday, April 12, at 4 pm in Harvill 318

Improving the ability to generate temporally-continuous real-time or seasonal streamflow forecasts can potentially enhance the reliability of flood warnings, and improve water allocation and planning, among others, at basin-scale. However, the operational discontinuity of modelling efforts in the Upper Zambezi River Basin (UZRB) is still a significant challenge, which also represents a common problem in many basins around the world. As a way to overcome this issue, we have developed, implemented, and validated two operational Hydrologic Forecasting Systems (HFS) for the UZRB: (1) a Real-Time Hydrologic Forecasting System (RT-HFS), and (2) a Seasonal Hydrologic Forecasting System (S-HFS). The RT-HFS was setup for two time scales, short- and medium-range. In short-range, three Satellite Precipitation Products (TMPA-RT, CMORPH, and PERSIANN) are downloaded, bias-corrected, and used as forcings to three different distributed hydrologic models (HYMOD_DS, HBV_DS, and VIC 4.2.b), to produce daily (near) real-time streamflow forecasts for the basin. In medium-range, forcings are extracted from the Global Forecast System (GFS) outputs and fed to the three hydrologic models to produce daily streamflow forecasts for the next 8 days in the future. To forecast daily streamflows at longer time scales, the S-HFS was set up with hydrologic forcings from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) project. Ten NMME ensembles of daily precipitation and temperature are downloaded in a monthly-basis to run the three hydrologic models to generate daily streamflow forecasts for the next 180 days in the future. All the data generated by both HFS are hosted on a web-based platform of the SERVIR Water Africa-Arizona Team (SWAAT) (, that provides streamflow forecasts at different time scales for multiple pilot basins in Africa. Present and future challenges in the implementation of both operational HFS are evaluated and discussed in terms of their advantages and disadvantages, with particular focus on analyzing the skill of the multi-product and multi-model approach, which forms the basis of the HFS.


Co-Authors on this research project include Juan B. Valdes, Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona; Eleonora Demaria from the USDA-ARS, Southwest Watershed Research Center, Tucson, Arizona; Tirthankar Roy, Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona; Matej Durcik from Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona; Sungwook Wi from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts; Aleix Serrat-Capdevila from Global Water Practice, The World Bank, Washington, DC; and Jason B. Roberts and Franklin R. Robertson from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), National Space Science Technology Center (NSSCTC).