Improving Seasonal Rainfall and Streamflow Forecasting in the Sahel Region via Better Predictor Selection, Uncertainty Quantification and Forecast Economic Value Assessment

Title: Improving Seasonal Rainfall and Streamflow Forecasting in the Sahel Region via Better Predictor Selection, Uncertainty Quantification and Forecast Economic Value Assessment
Authors: Sittichok, Ketvara
Date: 2016
Abstract: The Sahel region located in Western Africa is well known for its high rainfall variability. Severe and recurring droughts have plagued the region during the last three decades of the 20th century, while heavy precipitation events (with return periods of up to 1,200 years) were reported between 2007 and 2014. Vulnerability to extreme events is partly due to the fact that people are not prepared to cope with them. It would be of great benefit to farmers if information about the magnitudes of precipitation and streamflow in the upcoming rainy season were available a few months before; they could then switch to more adapted crops and farm management systems if required. Such information would also be useful for other sectors of the economy, such as hydropower production, domestic/industrial water consumption, fishing and navigation. A logical solution to the above problem would be seasonal rainfall and streamflow forecasting, which would allow to generate knowledge about the upcoming rainy season based on information available before it's beginning. The research in this thesis sought to improve seasonal rainfall and streamflow forecasting in the Sahel by developing statistical rainfall and streamflow seasonal forecasting models. Sea surface temperature (SST) were used as pools of predictor. The developed method allowed for a systematic search of the best period to calculate the predictor before it was used to predict average rainfall or streamflow over the upcoming rainy season. Eight statistical models consisted of various statistical methods including linear and polynomial regressions were developed in this study. Two main approaches for seasonal streamflow forecasting were developed here: 1) A two steps streamflow forecasting approach (called the indirect method) which first linked the average SST over a period prior to the date of forecast to average rainfall amount in the upcoming rainy season using the eight statistical models, then linked the rainfall amount to streamflow using a rainfall-runoff model (Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT)). In this approach, the forecasted rainfall was disaggregated to daily time step using a simple approach (the fragment method) before being fed into SWAT. 2) A one step streamflow forecasting approach (called as the direct method) which linked the average SST over a period prior to the date of forecast to the average streamflow in the upcoming rainy season using the eight statistical models. To decrease the uncertainty due to model selection, Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) was also applied. This method is able to explore the possibility of combining all available potential predictors (instead of selecting one based on an arbitrary criterion). The BMA is also capability to produce the probability density of the forecast which allows end-users to visualize the density of expected value and assess the level of uncertainty of the generated forecast. Finally, the economic value of forecast system was estimated using a simple economic approach (the cost/loss ratio method). Each developed method was evaluated using three well known model efficiency criteria: the Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient (Ef), the coefficient of determination (R2) and the Hit score (H). The proposed models showed equivalent or better rainfall forecasting skills than most research conducted in the Sahel region. The linear model driven by the Pacific SST produced the best rainfall forecasts (Ef = 0.82, R2 = 0.83, and H = 82%) at a lead time of up to 12 months. The rainfall forecasting model based on polynomial regression and forced by the Atlantic ocean SST can be used using a lead time of up to 5 months and had a slightly lower performance (Ef = 0.80, R2 = 0.81, and H = 82%). Despite the fact that the natural relationship between rainfall and SST is nonlinear, this study found that good results can be achieved using linear models. For streamflow forecasting, the direct method using polynomial regression performed slightly better than the indirect method (Ef = 0.74, R2 = 0.76, and H = 84% for the direct method; Ef = 0.70, R2 = 0.69, and H = 77% for the indirect method). The direct method was driven by the Pacific SST and had five months lead time. The indirect method was driven by the Atlantic SST and had six months lead time. No significant difference was found in terms of performance between BMA and the linear regression models based on a single predictor for streamflow forecasting. However, BMA was able to provide a probabilistic forecast that accounts for model selection uncertainty, while the linear regression model had a longer lead time. The economic value of forecasts developed using the direct and indirect methods were estimated using the cost/loss ratio method. It was found that the direct method had a better value than the indirect method. The value of the forecast declined with higher return periods for all methods. Results also showed that for the particular watershed under investigation, the direct method provided a better information for flood protection. This research has demonstrated the possibility of decent seasonal streamflow forecasting in the Sirba watershed, using the tropical Pacific and Atlantic SSTs as predictors.The findings of this study can be used to improve the performance of seasonal streamflow forecasting in the Sahel. A package implementing the statistical models developed in this study was developed so that end users can apply them for seasonal rainfall or streamflow forecasting in any region they are interested in, and using any predictor they may want to try.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -