Smith, K.A.; Tanguy, M.; Hannaford, J.; Prudhomme, C.

Historic reconstructions of daily river flow for 303 UK catchments (1891-2015)

This dataset is model output from the GR4J lumped catchment hydrology model. It provides 500 model realisations of daily river flow, in cubic metres per second (cumecs, m3/s), for 303 UK catchments for the period between 1891-2015. The modelled catchments are part of the National River Flow Archive (NRFA) ( and provide good spatial coverage across the UK. These flow reconstructions were produced as part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) funded Historic Droughts and IMPETUS projects, to provide consistent modelled daily flow data across the UK from 1891-2015, with estimates of uncertainty. This dataset is an outcome of the Historic Droughts Project (grant number: NE/L01016X/1).
The data are provided in two formats to help the user account for uncertainty:
(1) a 500-member ensemble of daily river flow time series for each catchment, with their corresponding model parameters and evaluation metric scores of model performance.
(2) a single river flow time series (one corresponding to the top run of the 500), with the maximum and minimum daily limits of the 500 ensemble members.

Publication date: 2018-03-12

Get the data

This dataset is made available under the terms of the Open Government Licence

Format of the data: Comma-separated values (CSV)

You must cite: Smith, K.A.; Tanguy, M.; Hannaford, J.; Prudhomme, C. (2018). Historic reconstructions of daily river flow for 303 UK catchments (1891-2015). NERC Environmental Information Data Centre.


© UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology


Study area
Temporal extent
1891-01-01    to    2015-11-30

Provenance & quality

The GR4J model (v 1.0.2) was run over the calibration period (1982-2014) using 500,000 Latin Hypercube Sampled model parameter sets. These model parameters were assessed against observations from the National River Flow Archive (NRFA). For two catchments (the Thames at Kingston, and the Lea at Feildes Weir) the model was also calibrated against naturalised flows. The model was calibrated using a multi-objective approach comprising of 6 evaluation metrics: Nash Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE), NSE on log flows (log NSE), Mean Absolute Percent Error (MAPE), Absolute Percent Bias (PBIAS), Absolute Percent Error in Mean Annual Minimum flows over a 30 day accumulation period (MAM30), and Absolute Percent Error in the flow exceeded 95% of the time (Q95).

The 500,000 model runs were then ranked by each evaluation metric, the ranks were summed, and the runs were reordered according to this final rank. Finally, in order to prevent uneven trade-offs between metrics, the runs were re-ordered according to thresholds of acceptability.
Reconstructed flow timeseries were then run for the top 500 ranking model parameter sets, using PET (Potential Evapotranspiration) (Tanguy et al., 2017: doi, and reconstructed daily rainfall data, provided by the UK Met Office.
The modelled data, and the supporting metadata files, were exported from the R software programme as comma separated value files (.csv), and ingested into the EIDC in this format.


This dataset is included in the following collections

Historic droughts: hydro-meteorological data outputs


West, H., Quinn, N., & Horswell, M. (2022). Spatio-temporal propagation of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) rainfall deviations to streamflow in British catchments. In Hydrological Sciences Journal (Vol. 67, Issue 5, pp. 676–688). Informa UK Limited

Supplemental information

Website for National River Flow Archive (NRFA)

Correspondence/contact details

Dr. Katie Smith
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford
OX10 8BB


Smith, K.A.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Tanguy, M.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Hannaford, J.
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Prudhomme, C.
European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts

Other contacts

NERC EDS Environmental Information Data Centre
NERC Environmental Information Data Centre
Rights Holder
UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Additional metadata

Topic categories
Inland Waters
Catchment,  Discharge,  Drought catalogue,  Drought inventory,  Droughts,  GR4J,  Historic Droughts,  Reconstructions,  River flow,  Uncertainty,  United Kingdom Water scarcity
Natural Environment Research Council Award: NE/L01016X/1
Natural Environment Research Council Award: NE/L010267/1
Spatial representation type
Tabular (text)
Spatial reference system
OSGB 1936 / British National Grid
Last updated
07 July 2022 12:31