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Title: Guidance on evaluating parametric model uncertainty at decision-relevant scales
Abstract. Spatially distributed hydrological models are commonly employed to optimize the locations of engineering control measures across a watershed. Yet, parameter screening exercises that aim to reduce the dimensionality of the calibration search space are typically completed only for gauged locations, like the watershed outlet, and use screening metrics that are relevant to calibration instead of explicitly describing the engineering decision objectives. Identifying parameters that describe physical processes in ungauged locations that affect decision objectives should lead to a better understanding of control measure effectiveness. This paper provides guidance on evaluating model parameter uncertainty at the spatial scales and flow magnitudes of interest for such decision-making problems. We use global sensitivity analysis to screen parameters for model calibration, and to subsequently evaluate the appropriateness of using multipliers to adjust the values of spatially distributed parameters to further reduce dimensionality. We evaluate six sensitivity metrics, four of which align with decision objectives and two of which consider model residual error that would be considered in spatial optimizations of engineering designs. We compare the resulting parameter selection for the basin outlet and each hillslope. We also compare basin outlet results for four calibration-relevant metrics. These methods were applied to a RHESSys ecohydrological model of an exurban forested watershed near Baltimore, MD, USA. Results show that (1) the set of parameters selected by calibration-relevant metrics does not include parameters that control decision-relevant high and low streamflows, (2) evaluating sensitivity metrics at the basin outlet misses many parameters that control streamflows in hillslopes, and (3) for some multipliers, calibrating all parameters in the set being adjusted may be preferable to using the multiplier if parameter sensitivities are significantly different, while for others, calibrating a subset of the parameters may be preferable if they are not all influential. Thus, we recommend that parameter screening exercises use decision-relevant metrics that are evaluated at the spatial scales appropriate to decision making. While including more parameters in calibration will exacerbate equifinality, the resulting parametric uncertainty should be important to consider in discovering control measures that are robust to it.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
2519 to 2539
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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