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  1. Evaluating whether hydrological models are right for the right reasons demands reproducible model benchmarking and diagnostics that evaluate not just statistical predictive model performance but also internal processes. Such model benchmarking and diagnostic efforts will benefit from standardized methods and ready-to-use toolkits. Using the Jupyter platform, this work presents HydroBench, a model-agnostic benchmarking tool consisting of three sets of metrics: 1) common statistical predictive measures, 2) hydrological signature-based process metrics, including a new time-linked flow duration curve and 3) information-theoretic diagnostics that measure the flow of information among model variables. As a test case, HydroBench was applied to compare two model products (calibrated and uncalibrated) of the National Hydrologic Model - Precipitation Runoff Modeling System (NHM-PRMS) at the Cedar River watershed, WA, United States. Although the uncalibrated model has the highest predictive performance, particularly for high flows, the signature-based diagnostics showed that the model overestimates low flows and poorly represents the recession processes. Elucidating why low flows may have been overestimated, the information-theoretic diagnostics indicated a higher flow of information from precipitation to snowmelt to streamflow in the uncalibrated model compared to the calibrated model, where information flowed more directly from precipitation to streamflow. This test case demonstrated the capability of HydroBench in process diagnostics and model predictive and functional performance evaluations, along with their tradeoffs. Having such a model benchmarking tool not only provides modelers with a comprehensive model evaluation system but also provides an open-source tool that can further be developed by the hydrological community.

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  2. Rainfall-triggered shallow landslides are destructive hazards and play an important role in landscape processes. A theory explaining the size distributions of such features remains elusive. Prior work connects size distributions to topography, but field-mapped inventories reveal pronounced similarities in the form, mode, and spread of distributions from diverse landscapes. We analyze nearly identical distributions occurring in the Oregon Coast Range and the English Lake District, two regions of strikingly different topography, lithology, and vegetation. Similarity in minimum sizes at these sites is partly explained by theory that accounts for the interplay of mechanical soil strength controls resisting failure. Maximum sizes, however, are not explained by current theory. We develop a generalized framework to account for the entire size distribution by unifying a mechanistic slope stability model with a flexible spatial-statistical description for the variability of hillslope strength. Using hillslope-scale numerical experiments, we find that landslides can occur not only in individual low strength areas but also across multiple smaller patches that coalesce. We show that reproducing observed size distributions requires spatial strength variations to be strongly localized, of large amplitude, and a consequence of multiple interacting factors. Such constraints can act together with the mechanical determinants of landslide initiation to produce size distributions of broadly similar character in widely different landscapes, as found in our examples. We propose that size distributions reflect the systematic scale dependence of the spatially averaged strength. Our results highlight the critical need to constrain the form, amplitude, and wavelength of spatial variability in material strength properties of hillslopes.

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  3. Abstract

    How precipitation (P) is translated into streamflow (Q) and over what timescales (i.e., “memory”) is difficult to predict without calibration of site‐specific models or using geochemical approaches, posing barriers to prediction in ungauged basins or advancement of general theories. Here, we used a data‐driven approach to identify regional patterns and exogenous controls on P–Q interactions. We applied an information flow analysis, which quantifies uncertainty reduction, to a daily time series of P and Q from 671 watersheds across the conterminous United States. We first demonstrated that information transfer from P to Q primarily reflects the quickflow component of water‐budgets, based on a watershed model. Readily quantifiable information flows show a functional relationship with model parameters, suggesting utility for model calibration. Second, applied to real watersheds, P–Q information flows exhibit seasonally varying behavior within regions in a manner consistent with dominant runoff generation mechanisms. However, the timing and the magnitude of information flows also reflect considerable subregional heterogeneity, likely attributable to differences in watershed size, baseflow contributions, and variation in aerial coverage of preferential flow paths. A regression analysis showed that a combination of climate and watershed characteristics are predictive of P–Q information flows. Though information flows cannot, in most cases, uniquely determine dominant runoff mechanisms, they provide a means to quantify the heterogeneous outcomes of those mechanisms within regions, thereby serving as a benchmarking tool for models developed at the regional scale. Last, information flows characterize regionally specific ways in which catchment connectivity changes from the wet to dry season.

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  4. Abstract

    Coastal river deltas are complex and dynamic ecosystems where vegetation plays an essential role in influencing, as well as being influenced by, physical processes, creating ecogeomorphic feedbacks between vegetation canopy characteristics and topography. However, this feedback is poorly understood. This knowledge gap is due to difficulties in detecting and quantifying the interactions that define the feedback. Emerging technology and data analysis techniques like transfer entropy have made it possible to overcome former difficulties associated with sampling constraints and delineate bidirectional feedback within many vegetation classes at the delta scale. Here the transfer entropy analysis was consistent with widespread understanding of marsh zonation, yet produced additional insight into which vegetation classes specifically had a dominant impact on topographic change. Ecogeomorphic feedback was resolvable only within native vegetation classes (NelumboandPolygonum) that occur over low to moderate elevations within the Wax Lake Delta Louisiana. In contrast, nonnative vegetation classes (ColocasiaandEichhornia) were not as effective at accreting sediment as native classes. The transfer entropy analysis suggests that different vegetation communities play functionally different roles in landscape evolution that should be differentiated in ecogeomorphic models. Within such models, it would be most imperative to resolve detailed flow characteristics at lower to low‐middle island elevations. Furthermore, within elevation zones, it is likely important to differentiate between the roles of multiple vegetation communities rather than treating the entire elevation zone as a single ecogeomorphic entity.

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