Hydrological catchment modelling: past, present and future
Abstract. This paper discusses basic issues in hydrological modelling and flood forecasting, ranging from the roles of physically-based and data-driven rainfall runoff models, to the concepts of predictive uncertainty and equifinality and their implications. The evolution of a wide range of hydrological catchment models employing the physically meaningful and data-driven approaches introduces the need for objective test beds or benchmarks to assess the merits of the different models in reconciling the alternative approaches. In addition, the paper analyses uncertainty in models and predictions by clarifying the meaning of uncertainty, by distinguishing between parameter and predictive uncertainty and by demonstrating how the concept of equifinality must be addressed by appropriate and robust inference approaches. Finally, the importance of predictive uncertainty in the decision making process is highlighted together with possible approaches aimed at overcoming the diffidence of end-users.