Scientific focus – Hydrology research

Water is vital to life! It affects many aspects of the environment, the society and our health. Therefore, there are many questions that we want answers to.

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SMHI hydrological research unit has a long tradition of applied research and is involved in many national and international projects. Existing applications cover aspects like runoff forecasting, spillway design, flood risk, hydrochemical modelling, fire hazard and effects of climate change. At present we mainly address the following challenges:

Our aim is to improve the hydrological production chain that provides answers to our water related questions and distributes this information to different kinds of users.

Hydrological production chain

Hydrology at SMHI can be categorized into five areas, which correspond to components in a production chain of water information (Figure 1).

This chain is used to deliver decision support to authorities and companies considering, for instance, safety (water level, flood and fire risk, droughts), water management (regulations, abstractions, irrigation), environmental concerns (pollution, water status, environmental flows), dimensioning of infrastructure (return periods, statistics of extremes), and climate impact on all these issues.

In addition, the general public receives information on the water cycle, both warnings and for planning recreation.

Work flow - production chain at SMHI
Components in the hydrological production chain at SMHI. Enlarge Image

The results are distributed as interactive web pages, reports, software, files or scientific articles dependent on the receiver. Most parts of the operational production is automated, such as storage of real time data and computation of forecasts. Computations are made on office PCs, SMHI servers, at the super computer center (NSC) or in the cloud. The products are maps and time series, usually based on a model setup for a specific area.

Daily hydrological forecasts are produced for the full area of Sweden and Pan Europe. Our numerical water models predict the water balance and river flow for the whole globe. Several large-scale assessments have been performed in the Arctic area, India, the La Plata river, the Niger river and The Middle East/North Africa. For the small scale, we often work together with customers with specific model applications (i.e. with hydropower companies and municipalities).

Every model application requires input data from a large number of databases that are preprocessed and adjusted for the computations. The combination of observations and model calculations result in cost efficient decision support. The hydrology is mainly driven by landscape features and meteorology, so input from meteorological observations and models are crucial.

The hydrological production chain is constantly developed based on requests from external users. The numerical calculations are available as maps, graphs and download at HYPEweb. It is also possible to order data deliveries from the hydrological model HYPE in standardized formats or customized to your needs.