AbstractThe Volga River, as the primary supplier of the Caspian Sea, plays a huge role in its ecosystem sustainability. In this study, we analyze its runoff predictability for different monthly forecast horizons. Additionally, the meteorological and hydrological variables affecting runoff in each month are identified. A wide range of the potential variables was first collected and the Boruta variable preprocessing method was employed to select the important ones. Then the hybrid models were created by combining the selected variables and the data-driven models [i.e., support vector regression (SVR), artificial neural network (ANN), and multiple linear regression (MLR)]. To postprocess the predicted data, the Bayesian model averaging (BMA) method was employed using the combination of the Boruta–artificial neural network (B-ANN) and the Boruta–support vector regression (B-SVR) models. Finally, the Kling-Gupta efficiency (KGE) and the continuous ranked probability skill score (CRPSS) probabilistic evaluation criteria were applied to evaluate the hybrid models. The results showed that the streamflow of the previous steps is the most crucial variable in predicting the streamflow of all next horizons, while its significance decreases as the forecast time horizon increases. Moreover, the temperature variables have the unlike effect on the streamflow prediction and the minimum temperature for winter and spring and the maximum and the average temperatures for summer and autumn are the most effective ones. Correspondingly, BMA-B-ANN-SVR presents the best performance among the hybrid models (for example, the median of 0.8 and 0.91 for CRPSS and KGE in the first horizon, respectively); the reliability of its predicted runoff for different forecast horizons is much better than other hybrid models (B-ANN and B-SVR).

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