Multicriteria analysis on rock moisture and streamflow in a rainfall-runoff model improves accuracy of model results

Peter T. La Follette*, W.J. Hahm, Daniella M. Rempe, William E. Dietrich, Claudia C. Brauer, Albrecht H. Weerts, David N. Dralle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Although shallow ((Formula presented.) 1.5 m) soil water storage has been extensively studied, the significance of deeper unsaturated zone water storage to flow generation is poorly documented. However, a limited but growing body of empirical work shows that the weathered bedrock vadose zone, not soil, stores the majority of plant available water in many seasonally dry and semi-arid landscapes. Moreover, this storage dynamic mediates recharge to hillslope groundwater systems that generate stream discharge and support ecologically significant baseflows. Explicit representations of bedrock vadose zone processes are rarely incorporated into runoff models, due in part to a paucity of observations that can constrain simulations. Here, we develop a simple representation of the weathered bedrock vadose zone that is guided by in situ field observations. We incorporate this representation into a rainfall-runoff model, and calibrate it on streamflow alone, on rock moisture (i.e., weathered bedrock vadose zone moisture) alone, and on both using the concept of Pareto optimality. We find that the model is capable of accurately simultaneously simulating dynamics in rock moisture and streamflow, in terms of Kling-Gupta Efficiency, when using Pareto optimal parameter sets. Calibration on streamflow alone, however, is insufficient to accurately simulate rock moisture dynamics. We further find that the posterior distributions of some model parameters are sensitive to choice of calibration scenario. The posterior distribution of high-performing model parameters resulting from the streamflow only calibration scenario include physically unrealistic values that are not yielded by the rock moisture only or Pareto calibration strategies. These results suggest that the accuracy of some model results can be increased and parameter uncertainty decreased via incorporation of rock moisture data in calibration, without sacrificing streamflow simulation quality. Emerging recognition of the global significance of weathered bedrock water storage in seasonally dry and semi-arid regions motivates more observations of weathered bedrock moisture and integration of this variable into earth system models.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14536
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • conceptual hydrologic model
  • multiple criteria analysis
  • parameter uncertainty
  • rock moisture
  • vadose zone


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