Forecasting water temperature in lakes and reservoirs using seasonal climate prediction

Mercado-Bettín, Daniel
Clayer, Francois
Shikhani, Muhammed
Moore, Tadhg N.
Frías, María Dolores
Jackson-Blake, Leah
Sample, James
Iturbide, Maialen
Herrera, Sixto
French, Andrew S.
Norling, Magnus Dahler
Rinke, Karsten
Seasonal climate forecasts produce probabilistic predictions of meteorological variables for subsequent months. This provides a potential resource to predict the influence of seasonal climate anomalies on surface water balance in catchments and hydro-thermodynamics in related water bodies (e.g., lakes or reservoirs). Obtaining seasonal forecasts for impact variables (e.g., discharge and water temperature) requires a link between seasonal climate forecasts and impact models simulating hydrology and lake hydrodynamics and thermal regimes. However, this link remains challenging for stakeholders and the water scientific community, mainly due to the probabilistic nature of these predictions. In this paper, we introduce a feasible, robust, and open-source workflow integrating seasonal climate forecasts with hydrologic and lake models to generate seasonal forecasts of discharge and water temperature profiles. The workflow has been designed to be applicable to any catchment and associated lake or reservoir, and is optimized in this study for four catchment-lake systems to help in their proactive management. We assessed the performance of the resulting seasonal forecasts of discharge and water temperature by comparing them with hydrologic and lake (pseudo)observations (reanalysis). Precisely, we analysed the historical performance using a data sample of past forecasts and reanalysis to obtain information about the skill (performance or quality) of the seasonal forecast system to predict particular events. We used the current seasonal climate forecast system (SEAS5) and reanalysis (ERA5) of the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). We found that due to the limited predictability at seasonal time-scales over the locations of the four case studies (Europe and South of Australia), seasonal forecasts exhibited none to low performance (skill) for the atmospheric variables considered. Nevertheless, seasonal forecasts for discharge present some skill in all but one case study. Moreover, seasonal forecasts for water temperature had higher performance in natural lakes than in reservoirs, which means human water control is a relevant factor affecting predictability, and the performance increases with water depth in all four case studies. Further investigation into the skillful water temperature predictions should aim to identify the extent to which performance is a consequence of thermal inertia (i.e., lead-in conditions) ​
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