Articles | Volume 13, issue 7
07 Jul 2009
 | 07 Jul 2009

Analysing the temporal dynamics of model performance for hydrological models

D. E. Reusser, T. Blume, B. Schaefli, and E. Zehe

Abstract. The temporal dynamics of hydrological model performance gives insights into errors that cannot be obtained from global performance measures assigning a single number to the fit of a simulated time series to an observed reference series. These errors can include errors in data, model parameters, or model structure. Dealing with a set of performance measures evaluated at a high temporal resolution implies analyzing and interpreting a high dimensional data set. This paper presents a method for such a hydrological model performance assessment with a high temporal resolution and illustrates its application for two very different rainfall-runoff modeling case studies. The first is the Wilde Weisseritz case study, a headwater catchment in the eastern Ore Mountains, simulated with the conceptual model WaSiM-ETH. The second is the Malalcahuello case study, a headwater catchment in the Chilean Andes, simulated with the physics-based model Catflow. The proposed time-resolved performance assessment starts with the computation of a large set of classically used performance measures for a moving window. The key of the developed approach is a data-reduction method based on self-organizing maps (SOMs) and cluster analysis to classify the high-dimensional performance matrix. Synthetic peak errors are used to interpret the resulting error classes. The final outcome of the proposed method is a time series of the occurrence of dominant error types. For the two case studies analyzed here, 6 such error types have been identified. They show clear temporal patterns, which can lead to the identification of model structural errors.