Subjective modeling decisions can significantly impact the simulation of flood and drought events

Lieke A. Melsen, Adriaan J. Teuling, Paul J.J.F. Torfs, Massimiliano Zappa, Naoki Mizukami, Pablo A. Mendoza, Martyn P. Clark, Remko Uijlenhoet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is generally acknowledged in the environmental sciences that the choice of a computational model impacts the research results. In this study of a flood and drought event in the Swiss Thur basin, we show that modeling decisions during the model configuration, beyond the model choice, also impact the model results. In our carefully designed experiment we investigated four modeling decisions in ten nested basins: the spatial resolution of the model, the spatial representation of the forcing data, the calibration period, and the performance metric. The flood characteristics were mainly affected by the performance metric, whereas the drought characteristics were mainly affected by the calibration period. The results could be related to the processes that triggered the particular events studied. The impact of the modeling decisions on the simulations did, however, vary among the investigated sub-basins. In spite of the limitations of this study, our findings have important implications for the understanding and quantification of uncertainty in any hydrological or even environmental model. Modeling decisions during model configuration introduce subjectivity from the modeler. Multiple working hypotheses during model configuration can provide insights on the impact of such subjective modeling decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1104
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume568
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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drought
modeling
simulation
basin
calibration
decision
spatial resolution
experiment

Keywords

  • Hydrological extremes
  • Hydrological modeling
  • Model configuration
  • Modeling decisions
  • Subjectivity

Cite this

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title = "Subjective modeling decisions can significantly impact the simulation of flood and drought events",
abstract = "It is generally acknowledged in the environmental sciences that the choice of a computational model impacts the research results. In this study of a flood and drought event in the Swiss Thur basin, we show that modeling decisions during the model configuration, beyond the model choice, also impact the model results. In our carefully designed experiment we investigated four modeling decisions in ten nested basins: the spatial resolution of the model, the spatial representation of the forcing data, the calibration period, and the performance metric. The flood characteristics were mainly affected by the performance metric, whereas the drought characteristics were mainly affected by the calibration period. The results could be related to the processes that triggered the particular events studied. The impact of the modeling decisions on the simulations did, however, vary among the investigated sub-basins. In spite of the limitations of this study, our findings have important implications for the understanding and quantification of uncertainty in any hydrological or even environmental model. Modeling decisions during model configuration introduce subjectivity from the modeler. Multiple working hypotheses during model configuration can provide insights on the impact of such subjective modeling decisions.",
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author = "Melsen, {Lieke A.} and Teuling, {Adriaan J.} and Torfs, {Paul J.J.F.} and Massimiliano Zappa and Naoki Mizukami and Mendoza, {Pablo A.} and Clark, {Martyn P.} and Remko Uijlenhoet",
year = "2019",
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language = "English",
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Subjective modeling decisions can significantly impact the simulation of flood and drought events. / Melsen, Lieke A.; Teuling, Adriaan J.; Torfs, Paul J.J.F.; Zappa, Massimiliano; Mizukami, Naoki; Mendoza, Pablo A.; Clark, Martyn P.; Uijlenhoet, Remko.

In: Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 568, 01.01.2019, p. 1093-1104.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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T1 - Subjective modeling decisions can significantly impact the simulation of flood and drought events

AU - Melsen, Lieke A.

AU - Teuling, Adriaan J.

AU - Torfs, Paul J.J.F.

AU - Zappa, Massimiliano

AU - Mizukami, Naoki

AU - Mendoza, Pablo A.

AU - Clark, Martyn P.

AU - Uijlenhoet, Remko

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AB - It is generally acknowledged in the environmental sciences that the choice of a computational model impacts the research results. In this study of a flood and drought event in the Swiss Thur basin, we show that modeling decisions during the model configuration, beyond the model choice, also impact the model results. In our carefully designed experiment we investigated four modeling decisions in ten nested basins: the spatial resolution of the model, the spatial representation of the forcing data, the calibration period, and the performance metric. The flood characteristics were mainly affected by the performance metric, whereas the drought characteristics were mainly affected by the calibration period. The results could be related to the processes that triggered the particular events studied. The impact of the modeling decisions on the simulations did, however, vary among the investigated sub-basins. In spite of the limitations of this study, our findings have important implications for the understanding and quantification of uncertainty in any hydrological or even environmental model. Modeling decisions during model configuration introduce subjectivity from the modeler. Multiple working hypotheses during model configuration can provide insights on the impact of such subjective modeling decisions.

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