Application of a High-Resolution Distributed Hydrological Model on a U.S.-Canada Transboundary Basin: Simulation of the Multiyear Mean Annual Hydrograph and 2011 Flood of the Richelieu River Basin

Lucas-Picher, Philippe ; Arsenault, Richard ; Poulin, Annie ; Ricard, Simon ; Lachance-Cloutier, Simon ; Turcotte, Richard

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<p align=justify>During spring 2011, an extreme flood occurred along the Richelieu River located in southern Quebec, Canada. The Richelieu River is the last section of the complex Richelieu basin, which is composed of the large Lake Champlain located in a valley between two large mountains. Previous attempts in reproducing the Richelieu River flow relied on the use of simplified lumped models and showed mixed results. In order to prepare a tool to assess accurately the change of flood recurrences in the future, a state-of-the-art distributed hydrological model was applied over the Richelieu basin. The model setup comprises several novel methods and data sets such as a very high resolution river network, a modern calibration technique considering the net basin supply of Lake Champlain, a new optimization algorithm, and the use of an up-to-date meteorological data set to force the model. The results show that the hydrological model is able to satisfactorily reproduce the multiyear mean annual hydrograph and the 2011 flow time series when compared with the observed river flow and an estimation of the Lake Champlain net basin supply. Many factors, such as the quality of the meteorological forcing data, that are affected by the low density of the station network, the steep terrain, and the lake storage effect challenged the simulation of the river flow. Overall, the satisfactory validation of the hydrological model allows to move to the next step, which consists in assessing the impacts of climate change on the recurrence of Richelieu River floods.</p>
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