Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Research article
20 May 2011
Research article |  | 20 May 2011

Increasing parameter certainty and data utility through multi-objective calibration of a spatially distributed temperature and solute model

C. Bandaragoda and B. T. Neilson

Abstract. To support the goal of distributed hydrologic and instream model predictions based on physical processes, we explore multi-dimensional parameterization determined by a broad set of observations. We present a systematic approach to using various data types at spatially distributed locations to decrease parameter bounds sampled within calibration algorithms that ultimately provide information regarding the extent of individual processes represented within the model structure. Through the use of a simulation matrix, parameter sets are first locally optimized by fitting the respective data at one or two locations and then the best results are selected to resolve which parameter sets perform best at all locations, or globally. This approach is illustrated using the Two-Zone Temperature and Solute (TZTS) model for a case study in the Virgin River, Utah, USA, where temperature and solute tracer data were collected at multiple locations and zones within the river that represent the fate and transport of both heat and solute through the study reach. The result was a narrowed parameter space and increased parameter certainty which, based on our results, would not have been as successful if only single objective algorithms were used. We also found that the global optimum is best defined by multiple spatially distributed local optima, which supports the hypothesis that there is a discrete and narrowly bounded parameter range that represents the processes controlling the dominant hydrologic responses. Further, we illustrate that the optimization process itself can be used to determine which observed responses and locations are most useful for estimating the parameters that result in a global fit to guide future data collection efforts.