Modeller subjectivity and calibration impacts on hydrological model applications: an event-based comparison for a road-adjacent catchment in South-East Norway

Publisher's full text
Zahra Kalantari
Steve Lyon
Per-Erik Jansson
Jannes Stolte
Lennart Folkeson
Helen French
Mona Sassner

Identifying a ‘best’ performing hydrologic model in a practical sense is difficult due to the potential influences of modeller subjectivity on, for example, calibration procedure and parameter selection. This is especially true for model applications at the event scale where the prevailing catchment conditions can have a strong impact on apparent model performance and suitability. In this study, two lumped models (CoupModel and HBV) and two physically-based distributed models (LISEM and MIKE SHE) were applied to a small catchment upstream of a road in south-eastern Norway. All models were calibrated to a single event representing typical winter conditions in the region and then applied to various other winter events to investigate the potential impact of calibration period and methodology on model performance. Peak flow and event-based hydrographs were simulated differently by all models leading to differences in apparent model performance under this application. In this case-study, the lumped models appeared to be better suited for hydrological events that differed from the calibration event (i.e., events when runoff was generated from rain on non-frozen soils rather than from rain and snowmelt on frozen soil) while the more physical-based approaches appeared better suited during snowmelt and frozen soil conditions more consistent with the event-specific calibration. This was due to the combination of variations in subsurface conditions over the eight events considered, the subsequent ability of the models to represent the impact of the conditions (particularly when subsurface conditions varied greatly from the calibration event), and the different approaches adopted to calibrate the models. These results indicate that hydrologic models may not only need to be selected on a case-by-case basis but also have their performance evaluated on an application-by-application basis since how a model is applied can be equally important as inherent model structure.

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