Articles | Volume 15, issue 10
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3123–3133, 2011

Special issue: Looking at catchments in colors: new ways of generating, combining...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3123–3133, 2011

Research article 13 Oct 2011

Research article | 13 Oct 2011

On the colour and spin of epistemic error (and what we might do about it)

K. Beven1,2,3, P. J. Smith1, and A. Wood1,4 K. Beven et al.
  • 1Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Geocentrum, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 75236, Sweden
  • 3Centre for the Analysis of Time Series (CATS), London School of Economics, London, UK
  • 4JBA Consulting, Warrington, UK

Abstract. Disinformation as a result of epistemic error is an issue in hydrological modelling. In particular the way in which the colour in model residuals resulting from epistemic errors should be expected to be non-stationary means that it is difficult to justify the spin that the structure of residuals can be properly represented by statistical likelihood functions. To do so would be to greatly overestimate the information content in a set of calibration data and increase the possibility of both Type I and Type II errors. Some principles of trying to identify periods of disinformative data prior to evaluation of a model structure of interest, are discussed. An example demonstrates the effect on the estimated parameter values of a hydrological model.