Earth observations (EOs) are a valuable complement to in situ measurements in hydrology because they provide information in locations where direct measurements are unavailable or prohibitively expensive to make. Recent advances have enabled the assimilation of data sets of different physical variables into hydrological models to better estimate states and fluxes. Along with the meteorological forcings, the assimilated data exert controls on forecasts; it is therefore important to apportion the contributions from the forcing and assimilated data. Quality assessment is sometimes conducted in the pseudo‐reality, which neglects observations and model limitations. Here we introduce a diagnostic framework that accounts for observations to assess the sources of skill and infer the seasonal importance of assimilated and forcing data. We test the framework with a forcing data set from a downscaled Global Circulation Model and assimilate four EO and two in situ data sets to initialize the forecasts. We investigate the hydrological response and seasonal predictions over a Swedish snowmelt‐dominated catchment using the HYPE model over 2001–2015. The framework allows assessing the improvement in seasonal skill due to the different assimilated data and meteorological forcing. For the studied catchment, all EO and in situ data sets add information to the final forecast. The lead times during which data assimilation influences forecast skill also differ between data sets and seasons for example, assimilating snow water equivalent impacts the forecast for more than 20 weeks during winter. Lastly, assimilated data sets are generally more important to streamflow forecasting skill than meteorological forcing in the studied snow‐dominated catchment.


Earth observations, Hydrology, Data assimilation, Meteorological forcing, Streamflow forecasting


  1. Musuuza, J. L., Crochemore, L., & Pechlivanidis, I. G. (2023). Evaluation of earth observations and in situ data assimilation for seasonal hydrological forecasting. Water Resources Research, 59, e2022WR033655. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022WR033655