Zhaofeng He


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Modeling the sensitivity of snowmelt, soil moisture and streamflow generation to climate over the Canadian Prairies using a basin classification approach
Zhaofeng He, Kevin Shook, Christopher Spence, John W. Pomeroy, Colin J. Whitfield
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions, Volume 2023

Abstract. This study evaluated the effects of climate perturbations on snowmelt, soil moisture and streamflow generation in small Canadian Prairie basins using a modeling approach based on classification of basin biophysical and hydraulic parameters. Seven basin classes that encompass the entirety of the Prairie ecozone in Canada were determined by cluster analysis of biophysical characteristics. Individual semi-distributed virtual basin (VB) models representing these classes were parameterized in the Cold Regions Hydrological Model (CRHM) platform which includes modules for snowmelt and sublimation, soil freezing and thawing, actual evapotranspiration (ET), soil moisture dynamics, groundwater recharge and depressional storage dynamics including fill and spill runoff generation and variable connected areas. Precipitation (P) and temperature (T) perturbation scenarios covering the range of climate model predictions for the 21st century were used to evaluate climate sensitivity of hydrological processes in individual land cover and basin types across the Prairie ecozone. Results indicated that snow accumulation in wetlands had a greater sensitivity to P and T than that in croplands and grasslands in all the basin types. Wetland soil moisture was also more sensitive to T than the cropland and grassland soil moisture. Jointly influenced by land cover distribution and local climate, basin-average snow accumulation was more sensitive to T in the drier and grassland-characterized basins than in the wetter basins dominated by cropland, whilst basin-average soil moisture was most sensitive to T and P perturbations in basins typified by pothole depressions and broad river valleys. Annual streamflow had the greatest sensitivities to T and P in the dry and poorly connected Interior Grassland basins but the smallest in the wet and well-connected Southern Manitoba basins. The ability of P to compensate for warming induced reductions in snow accumulation and streamflow was much higher in the wetter and cropland-dominated basins than in the drier and grassland-characterized basins, whilst decreases in cropland soil moisture induced by the maximum expected warming of 6 °C could be fully offset by P increase of 11 % in all the basins. These results can be used to 1) identify locations which had the largest hydrological sensitivities to changing climate; and 2) diagnose underlying processes responsible for hydrological responses to expected climate change. Variations of hydrological sensitivity in land cover and basin types suggest that different water management and adaptation methods are needed to address enhanced water stress due to expected climate change in different regions of the Prairie ecozone.


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Assessing hydrological sensitivity of grassland basins in the Canadian Prairies to climate using a basin classification-based virtual modelling approach
Christopher Spence, Zhaofeng He, Kevin Shook, Balew A. Mekonnen, John W. Pomeroy, Colin J. Whitfield, Jared D. Wolfe
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 26, Issue 7

Abstract. Significant challenges from changes in climate and land use face sustainable water use in the Canadian Prairies ecozone. The region has experienced significant warming since the mid-20th century, and continued warming of an additional 2 ∘C by 2050 is expected. This paper aims to enhance understanding of climate controls on Prairie basin hydrology through numerical model experiments. It approaches this by developing a basin-classification-based virtual modelling framework for a portion of the Prairie region and applying the modelling framework to investigate the hydrological sensitivity of one Prairie basin class (High Elevation Grasslands) to changes in climate. High Elevation Grasslands dominate much of central and southern Alberta and parts of south-western Saskatchewan, with outliers in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba. The experiments revealed that High Elevation Grassland snowpacks are highly sensitive to changes in climate but that this varies geographically. Spring maximum snow water equivalent in grasslands decreases 8 % ∘C−1 of warming. Climate scenario simulations indicated that a 2 ∘C increase in temperature requires at least an increase of 20 % in mean annual precipitation for there to be enough additional snowfall to compensate for enhanced melt losses. The sensitivity in runoff is less linear and varies substantially across the study domain: simulations using 6 ∘C of warming, and a 30 % increase in mean annual precipitation yields simulated decreases in annual runoff of 40 % in climates of the western Prairie but 55 % increases in climates of eastern portions. These results can be used to identify those areas of the region that are most sensitive to climate change and highlight focus areas for monitoring and adaptation. The results also demonstrate how a basin classification-based virtual modelling framework can be applied to evaluate regional-scale impacts of climate change with relatively high spatial resolution in a robust, effective and efficient manner.

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The cold regions hydrological modelling platform for hydrological diagnosis and prediction based on process understanding
John W. Pomeroy, Thomas A. Brown, Xing Fang, Kevin Shook, Dhiraj Pradhananga, Robert Armstrong, Phillip Harder, Christopher B. Marsh, Diogo Costa, Sebastian A. Krogh, Caroline Aubry‐Wake, Holly Annand, P. Lawford, Zhaofeng He, Mazda Kompani-Zare, Jimmy Moreno
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 615

• Snow, glaciers, wetlands, frozen ground and permafrost needed in hydrological models. • Water quality export by coupling biochemical transformations to cold regions processes. • Hydrological sensitivity to land use depends on cold regions processes. • Strong cold regions hydrological sensitivity to climate warming. Cold regions involve hydrological processes that are not often addressed appropriately in hydrological models. The Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling platform (CRHM) was initially developed in 1998 to assemble and explore the hydrological understanding developed from a series of research basins spanning Canada and international cold regions. Hydrological processes and basin response in cold regions are simulated in a flexible, modular, object-oriented, multiphysics platform. The CRHM platform allows for multiple representations of forcing data interpolation and extrapolation, hydrological model spatial and physical process structures, and parameter values. It is well suited for model falsification, algorithm intercomparison and benchmarking, and has been deployed for basin hydrology diagnosis, prediction, land use change and water quality analysis, climate impact analysis and flood forecasting around the world. This paper describes CRHM’s capabilities, and the insights derived by applying the model in concert with process hydrology research and using the combined information and understanding from research basins to predict hydrological variables, diagnose hydrological change and determine the appropriateness of model structure and parameterisations.

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Assessing runoff sensitivity of North American Prairie Pothole Region basins to wetland drainage using a basin classification-based virtual modelling approach
Christopher Spence, Zhaofeng He, Kevin Shook, John W. Pomeroy, Colin J. Whitfield, Jared D. Wolfe
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, Volume 26, Issue 21

Abstract. Wetland drainage has been pervasive in the North American Prairie Pothole Region. There is strong evidence that this drainage increases the hydrological connectivity of previously isolated wetlands and, in turn, runoff response to snowmelt and rainfall. It can be hard to disentangle the role of climate from the influence of wetland drainage in observed records. In this study, a basin-classification-based virtual modelling approach is described that can isolate these effects on runoff regimes. The basin class which was examined, entitled Pothole Till, extends throughout much of Canada's portion of the Prairie Pothole Region. Three knowledge gaps were addressed. First, it was determined that the spatial pattern in which wetlands are drained has little influence on how much the runoff regime was altered. Second, no threshold could be identified below which wetland drainage has no effect on the runoff regime, with drainage thresholds as low as 10 % in the area being evaluated. Third, wetter regions were less sensitive to drainage as they tend to be better hydrologically connected, even in the absence of drainage. Low flows were the least affected by drainage. Conversely, during extremely wet years, runoff depths could double as the result of complete wetland removal. Simulated median annual runoff depths were the most responsive, potentially tripling under typical conditions with high degrees of wetland drainage. As storage capacity is removed from the landscape through wetland drainage, the size of the storage deficit of median years begins to decrease and to converge on those of the extreme wet years. Model simulations of flood frequency suggest that, because of these changes in antecedent conditions, precipitation that once could generate a median event with wetland drainage can generate what would have been a maximum event without wetland drainage. The advantage of the basin-classification-based virtual modelling approach employed here is that it simulated a long period that included a wide variety of precipitation and antecedent storage conditions across a diversity of wetland complexes. This has allowed seemingly disparate results of past research to be put into context and finds that conflicting results are often only because of differences in spatial scale and temporal scope of investigation. A conceptual framework is provided that shows, in general, how annual runoff in different climatic and drainage situations will likely respond to wetland drainage in the Prairie Pothole Region.


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Sensitivity analysis of hydrological processes to perturbed climate in a southern boreal forest basin
Zhaofeng He, John W. Pomeroy, Xing Fang, A. Peterson
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 601

• The CRHM-created Boreal Hydrology Model performed quite well on simultaneously simulating runoff, snow water equivalent, soil liquid water content and evapotranspiration (ET) with minor parameter calibration. • The basin hydrological variables showed quite different sensitivities to perturbations of precipitation (P) and temperature (T). Annual runoff was more sensitive to rising P than warming T, but annual ET was more sensitive to warming T. • Perturbed P and T had distinctively different influences on the streamflow regime. Increased P enhanced the intra- and inter-annual variabilities of basin runoff, whilst rising T resulted in the inverse changes. • Effects of warming on annual runoff and snow processes could be compensated for to varying degrees by the effects of increases in P. Hydrological processes over and through frozen and unfrozen ground were simulated in the well instrumented boreal forest basin of White Gull Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada using a model created using the flexible Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling (CRHM) platform. The CRHM-created Boreal Hydrology Model was structured and initially parameterized using decades of process hydrology research in the southern boreal forest with minor parameter calibration, and generally produced quite good performance on simultaneously reproducing the measurements of runoff, snow water equivalent (SWE), soil liquid water content and eddy correlation flux tower observations of evapotranspiration (ET) over two decades. To examine the sensitivity of basin hydrology to perturbed climate inputs, air temperature (T) inputs were set up by linear increments in the reference observation of up to +6 ℃, and precipitation (P) inputs were generated by multiplying the reference observed P from 70% to 130%. The model results showed that the basin hydrological variables showed quite different sensitivities to perturbations of P and T. The volume of annual runoff and the annual runoff coefficient increased more rapidly with rising P, at rates of 31% and 16% per 10% increase in P, but decreased by only 3.8% and 4.7% per 1 ℃ of warming. Annual ET increased rapidly with temperature, by 7% per 1 ℃ of warming and therefore drove the streamflow volumetric changes with warming, but increased only 1% per 10% increase in P. Perturbations of P and T had distinctively different influences on the streamflow regime. Increased P enhanced the intra- and inter-annual variabilities of basin runoff, reduced the relative contribution of winter runoff to annual runoff and increased the relative contribution of summer runoff; whilst rising T resulted in the inverse changes in the streamflow regime. Effects of warming on some hydrological processes could be compensated for to varying degrees by the effects of increases in P. Reductions in the annual runoff volume and runoff coefficient caused by warming up to 6 ℃ could be compensated for by increases of <20% in P. However, the maximum increase in P (+30%) examined could only compensate for the changes in snow processes caused by warming of less than 4 ℃ and snow-cover duration decreases with 1 ℃ warming could not be compensated for by any precipitation increase considered. These results inform the vulnerability of boreal forest hydrology to the first-order changes in P and T and provide guidance for further climate impact assessments for hydrology in the southern boreal forest in Canada.

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Hydrological evaluation of high-resolution precipitation estimates from the WRF model in the Third Pole river basins
He Sun, Fengge Su, Zhaofeng He, Tinghai Ou, Deliang Chen, Zhenhua Li, Yanping Li
Journal of Hydrometeorology

Abstract In this study, two sets of precipitation estimates based on the regional Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) –the high Asia refined analysis (HAR) and outputs with a 9 km resolution from WRF (WRF-9km) are evaluated at both basin and point scales, and their potential hydrological utilities are investigated by driving the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) large-scale land surface hydrological model in seven Third Pole (TP) basins. The regional climate model (RCM) tends to overestimate the gauge-based estimates by 20–95% in annual means among the selected basins. Relative to the gauge observations, the RCM precipitation estimates can accurately detect daily precipitation events of varying intensities (with absolute bias < 3 mm). The WRF-9km exhibits a high potential for hydrological application in the monsoon-dominated basins in the southeastern TP (with NSE of 0.7–0.9 and bias of -11% to 3%), while the HAR performs well in the upper Indus (UI) and upper Brahmaputra (UB) basins (with NSE of 0.6 and bias of -15% to -9%). Both the RCM precipitation estimates can accurately capture the magnitudes of low and moderate daily streamflow, but show limited capabilities in flood prediction in most of the TP basins. This study provides a comprehensive evaluation of the strength and limitation of RCMs precipitation in hydrological modeling in the TP with complex terrains and sparse gauge observations.