EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Impact of bias correction techniques on an ensemble of seasonal discharge forecast for the Danube upstream of Vienna

Ignacio Martin Santos, Mathew Herrnegger, and Hubert Holzmann
Ignacio Martin Santos et al.
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Institute of Hydrology and Water Mangement (HyWa), Vienna, Austria (

The skill of seasonal hydro-meteorological forecasts with a lead time of up to six months is currently limited, since they frequently exhibit random but also systematic errors. Bias correction algorithms can be applied and provide an effective approach in removing historical biases relative to observations. Systematic errors in hydrology model outputs can be consequence of different sources: i) errors in meteorological data used as input data, ii) errors in the hydrological model response to climate forcings, iii) unknown/unobservable internal states and iv) errors in the model parameterizations, also due to unresolved subgrid scale variability.

Normally, bias correction techniques are used to correct meteorological, e.g. precipitation data, provided by climate models. Only few studies are available applying these techniques to hydrological model outputs. Standard bias correction techniques used in literature can be classified into scaling-, and distributional-based methods. The former consists of using multiplicative or additive scaling factors to correct the modeled simulations, while the later methods are quantile mapping techniques that fit the distribution of the simulation to fit to the observations. In this study, the impact of different bias correction techniques on the seasonal discharge forecasts skill is assessed.

As a case study, a seasonal discharge forecasting system developed for the Danube basin upstream of Vienna, is used. The studied basin covers an area of around 100 000 km2 and is subdivided in 65 subbasins, 55 of them gauged with a long historical record of observed discharge. The forecast system uses the calibrated hydrological model, COSERO, which is fed with an ensemble of seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts. The output of the model provides an ensemble of seasonal discharge forecasts for each of the (gauged) subbasins. Seasonal meteorological forecasts for the past (hindcast), together with historical discharge observations, allow to assess the quality of the seasonal discharge forecasting system, also including the effects of different bias correction methods. The corrections applied to the discharge simulations allow to eliminate potential systematic errors between the modeled and observed values.

Our findings generally suggest that the quality of the seasonal forecasts improve when applying bias correction. Compared to simpler methods, which use additive or multiplicative scaling factors, quantile mapping techniques tend to be more appropriate in removing errors in the ensemble seasonal forecasts.

How to cite: Martin Santos, I., Herrnegger, M., and Holzmann, H.: Impact of bias correction techniques on an ensemble of seasonal discharge forecast for the Danube upstream of Vienna, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12145,, 2021.


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