Professor Deborah Nykanen

Project Title: 
Applied Research in Weather and Flood Forecasting, and Multi-Scaling Analysis of Hydrometorological Variables

This group’s past research work includes hydrologic modeling, coupled land-atmosphere modeling, and multi-scale statistical analysis of rainfall and soil moisture data. The overall goal of the current research focus is to improve hydrologic forecasting of runoff in the Midwest. This research is in collaboration with the National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) located in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The NCRFC is responsible for river forecasting in the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Over the past several years, the group's research focused on targeted calibration methods to estimate model parameters for the NWS distributed hydrology model for application in their Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (RRAF). The researchers compared several model calibration techniques, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, and assessing the impact of watershed versus sub-watershed scale in the targeted calibration process. The Kickapoo River watershed in Wisconsin has been the primary focus. This watershed has experienced several major floods in the past decade. Future research will include additional watersheds in Minnesota and Wisconsin and focus on developing semi-automated techniques for efficient parameter calibration across the NCRFC region.

In 2020, the group is working on a research project recently funded by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research's (UCAR) COMET® Outreach Program for NWS Partners. This project will focus on how NWS forecasters at the NCRFC and the Minneapolis Weather Forecast Office (WFO) can best use the streamflow guidance product from the National Water Model (NWM) in their operational forecasts. The project will use data from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) stream gages to develop a baseline set of statistics indicating relative performance of the NWM streamflow guidance at non-USGS gaging locations. The Cottonwood River in central/southern Minnesota will be the initial focus of this study. This river has no reaches that have been included in direct NWM calibration efforts to date; and it regularly poses forecasting challenges for the NCRFC. The variety of local, state and federal stream gaging sites on the Cottonwood River will be used to compare and statistically quantify performance of the National Water Model (NWM) for recent flood events. This baseline study will provide valuable insight as to how NWS forecasters can best use NWM output at select non-USGS gaging locations.

Project Investigators

Professor Deborah Nykanen
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