User-focused evaluation of National Ecological Observatory Network streamflow estimates.
Accurately estimating stream discharge is crucial for many ecological, biogeochemical, and hydrologic analyses. As of September 2022, The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) provided up to 5 years of continuous discharge estimates at 28 streams across the United States. NEON created rating curves at each site in a Bayesian framework, parameterized using hydraulic controls and manual measurements of discharge. Here we evaluate the reliability of these discharge estimates with three approaches. We (1) compared predicted to observed discharge, (2) compared predicted to observed stage, and (3) calculated the proportion of discharge estimates extrapolated beyond field measurements. We considered 1,523 site-months of continuous streamflow predictions published by NEON. Of these, 39% met our highest quality criteria, 11% fell into an intermediate classification, and 50% of site-months were classified as unreliable. We provided diagnostic metrics and categorical evaluations of continuous discharge and stage estimates by month for each site, enabling users to rapidly query for suitable NEON data.