Development of a monthly to seasonal forecast framework tailored to inland waterway transport in central Europe

Monica.Ionita [ at ]


Traditionally, navigation-related forecasts in central Europe cover short- to medium-range lead times linked to the travel times of vessels to pass the main waterway bottlenecks leaving the loading ports. Without doubt, this aspect is still essential for navigational users, but in light of the growing political intention to use the free capacity of the inland waterway transport in Europe, additional lead time supporting strategic decisions is more and more in demand. However, no such predictions offering extended lead times of several weeks up to several months currently exist for considerable parts of the European waterway network. This paper describes the set-up of a monthly to seasonal forecasting system for the German stretches of the international waterways of the Rhine, Danube and Elbe rivers. Two competitive forecast approaches have been implemented: the dynamical set-up forces a hydrological model with post-processed outputs from ECMWF general circulation model System 4, whereas the statistical approach is based on the empirical relationship ("teleconnection") of global oceanic, climate and regional hydro-meteorological data with river flows. The performance of both forecast methods is evaluated in relation to the climatological forecast (ensemble of historical streamflow) and the well-known ensemble streamflow prediction approach (ESP, ensemble based on historical meteorology) using common performance indicators (correlation coefficient; mean absolute error, skill score; mean squared error, skill score; and continuous ranked probability, skill score) and an impact-based evaluation quantifying the potential economic gain. The following four key findings result from this study: (1) as former studies for other regions of central Europe indicate, the accuracy and/or skill of the meteorological forcing used has a larger effect than the quality of initial hydrological conditions for relevant stations along the German waterways. (2) Despite the predictive limitations on longer lead times in central Europe, this study reveals the existence of a valuable predictability of streamflow on monthly up to seasonal timescales along the Rhine, upper Danube and Elbe waterways, and the Elbe achieves the highest skill and economic value. (3) The more physically based and the statistical approach are able to improve the predictive skills and economic value compared to climatology and the ESP approach. The specific forecast skill highly depends on the forecast location, the lead time and the season. (4) Currently, the statistical approach seems to be most skilful for the three waterways investigated. The lagged relationship between the monthly and/or seasonal streamflow and the climatic and/or oceanic variables vary between 1 month (e.g. local precipitation, temperature and soil moisture) up to 6 months (e.g. sea surface temperature). Besides focusing on improving the forecast methodology, especially by combining the individual approaches, the focus is on developing useful forecast products on monthly to seasonal timescales for waterway transport and to operationalize the related forecasting service.

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Primary Division
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Research Networks
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.5194/hess-21-6401-2017

Cite as
Meißner, D. , Klein, B. and Ionita, M. (2017): Development of a monthly to seasonal forecast framework tailored to inland waterway transport in central Europe , Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 21 , pp. 6401-6423 . doi: 10.5194/hess-21-6401-2017

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