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NEON Continuous Discharge Evaluation

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Created: Apr 08, 2022 at 2:13 p.m.
Last updated: Apr 10, 2023 at 6:07 p.m.
DOI: 10.4211/hs.03c52d47d66e40f4854da8397c7d9668
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Sharing Status: Published
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Accurately estimating stream discharge is crucial for many ecological, biogeochemical, and hydrologic analyses. As of 2022, The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) provides up to 5 years of continuous discharge and uncertainty estimates at 28 stream and river sites across the United States. NEON generated annual estimates using Bayesian rating curves that were parameterized based on hydraulic controls and point estimates of discharge collected via acoustic doppler current profilers, salt tracer releases, and flow meter measurements. Inputs to the models were sensor-measured continuous surface water elevations. Here we evaluate the reliability of these discharge estimates, with four approaches. We (1) compared predicted to observed discharge values, (2) compared predicted to observed surface water elevation values, (3) compiled data availability, and (4) calculated the proportion of discharge estimates extrapolated beyond field measurement. We provided diagnostic metrics and evaluations of continuous discharge estimates and continuous stage estimates by month for each site in which continuous discharge data was available as of December 2021, enabling users to rapidly query for suitable NEON data.

Please note, this evaluation is was performed on NEON Discharge REALSE-2022 data and provisional data after 09/30/2019. See new versions of this dataset for future NEON data releases or our code repository to update this analysis locally:

See publication for details on methods:
Rhea, S, et al. User-focused evaluation of National Ecological Observatory Network streamflow estimates, Sci. Data, 2023.

For more information on NEON sites, see their depictions on the NEON page:
For detailed information of each NEON watershed, shapefiles and associated information can be found here:

Subject Keywords



Coordinate System/Geographic Projection:
WGS 84 EPSG:4326
Coordinate Units:
Decimal degrees
Place/Area Name:
National Ecological Observatory Network
North Latitude
East Longitude
South Latitude
West Longitude


Start Date:
End Date:



This data product is an evaluation of the NEON Continuous Discharge product ( The data set here provides a categorical quality classification of every site-month that NEON provides continuous discharge data. A detailed description of this evaluation dataset can found here:

Rhea, s, et al. User-focused evaluation of National Ecological Observatory Network streamflow estimates, Sci. Data, in Review

Below is a brief description of the dataset:
Our evaluation dataset classifies NEON site-months into three categories of quality or flags months for potential uncertainty. Two type of flags exist in this dataset: 1) “drift flag”, and 2) “regression flag”. A drift flag indicates a site-month had detectable directional drift of continuous pressure transducers data used to measure stage height. A regression flag indicates the relationship of continuously measured stage height did not have a strong relationship with manually measured gauge height. Detailed information on our methods can be found in the publication describing the dataset. 

If a site-month was not flagged with one of these qualifiers, data was assigned a Tier 1, 2, or 3 rating based on the rating curve used in that site-month. Tier 1 data corresponds to data that had a Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient greater than 0.9 and had no more than 15% of reported streamflow values greater than the maximum manually measured streamflow value used to construct the rating curve. Tier 2 data corresponds to data that had a Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient greater than 0.75 and less than 0.9 or data with more than 15% and less than 30% of reported streamflow values greater than the maximum manually measured gauging. Tier 3 data corresponds to data that had a  Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient less than 0.75 or had more than 30% of its continuous streamflow values over the maximum manually measured gauging. 

Data of any tier could be used based on a users needs. We recommend using Tier 1 data in almost any ecological analysis. Tier 2 data suffers from either a weaker fit of the rating curve between gauge height and streamflow or more than 15% of streamflow values over the maximum gauging used to build the rating curve. This data could be used in analyses but should be used with caution at high flows if a large amount of data exceeds the maximum gauging. Tier 3 is likely only usable after close inspection of relevant components. 

All metrics used to assign these classification are in the dataset and can be leveraged by users of this dataset to make their own decisions on what data is usable.

Related Resources

This resource has been replaced by a newer version Rhea, S. (2023). NEON Continuous Discharge Evaluation, HydroShare,


Funding Agencies

This resource was created using funding from the following sources:
Agency Name Award Title Award Number
National Science Foundation 2106071

How to Cite

Rhea, S. (2023). NEON Continuous Discharge Evaluation, HydroShare,

This resource is shared under the Creative Commons Attribution CC BY.


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