Liu, T; Willems, P; Feng, XW; Li, Q; Huang, Y; Bao, AM; Chen, X; Veroustraete, F; Dong, QH (2012). On the usefulness of remote sensing input data for spatially distributed hydrological modelling: case of the Tarim River basin in China. HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES, 26(3), 335-344.
The ecological situation of the Tarim River basin in China seriously declined since the early 1950s, mainly due to a strong increase in water abstraction for irrigation purposes. To restore the ecological system and support sustainable development of the Tarim River basin region in China, more hydrological studies are demanded to properly understand the processes of the watershed and efficiently manage the water resources. Such studies are, however, complicated due to the limited data availability, especially in the mountainous headwater regions of the Tarim River basin. This study investigated the usefulness of remote sensing (RS) data to overcome that lack of data in the spatially distributed hydrological modelling of the basin. Complementary to the conventional station-based (SB) data, the RS products that are directly used in this study include precipitation, evapotranspiration and leaf area index. They are derived from raw image data of the Chinese Fengyun meteorological satellite and from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). The MODIS land surface temperature was used to calculate the atmospheric temperature lapse rate to describe the temperature dependency on topographical variations. Moreover, MODIS-based snow cover images were used to obtain model initial conditions and as validation reference for the snow model component. Comparison of model results based on RS input versus conventional SB input exhibited similar results in terms of high and low river runoff extremes, cumulative runoff volumes in both runoff and snow melting seasons and spatial and temporal variability of snow cover. During summer time, when the snow cover shrinks in the permanent glacier region, it was found that the model resolution influences the model results dramatically, hence, showing the importance of detailed (RS based) spatially distributed input data. Copyright (C) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.