Accurate and reliable flood forecasting plays an important role in flood control, reservoir operation, and water resources management. Conventional hydrological parameter calibration is based on an objective function without consideration for forecast performance during lead-time periods. A novel objective function, i.e., minimizing the sum of the squared errors between forecasted and observed streamflow during multiple lead times, is proposed to calibrate hydrological parameters for improved forecasting. China's Baiyunshan Reservoir basin was selected as a case study, and the Xinanjiang model was used. The proposed method provided better results for peak flows, in terms of the value and occurrence time, than the conventional method. Specifically, the qualified rate of peak flow for 4-, 5-, and 6-h lead times in the proposed method were 69.2%, 53.8%, and 38.5% in calibration, and 60%, 40%, and 20% in validation, respectively. This compares favorably with the corresponding values for the conventional method, which were 53.8%, 15.4%, and 7.7% in calibration, and 20%, 20%, and 0% in validation, respectively. Uncertainty analysis revealed that the proposed method caused less parameter uncertainty than the conventional method. Therefore, the proposed method is effective in improving the performance during multiple lead times for flood mitigation.

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