Articles | Volume 16, issue 10
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3579–3606, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 3579–3606, 2012

Research article 15 Oct 2012

Research article | 15 Oct 2012

Robust multi-objective calibration strategies – possibilities for improving flood forecasting

T. Krauße1, J. Cullmann2, P. Saile2, and G. H. Schmitz1 T. Krauße et al.
  • 1Institute of Hydrology and Meteorology, Department of Hydrology, Dresden University of Technology, Bergstr. 66, 01062 Dresden, Germany
  • 22IHP/HWRP Secretariat, Federal Institute of Hydrology, Am Mainzer Tor 1, 56068 Koblenz, Germany

Abstract. Process-oriented rainfall-runoff models are designed to approximate the complex hydrologic processes within a specific catchment and in particular to simulate the discharge at the catchment outlet. Most of these models exhibit a high degree of complexity and require the determination of various parameters by calibration. Recently, automatic calibration methods became popular in order to identify parameter vectors with high corresponding model performance. The model performance is often assessed by a purpose-oriented objective function. Practical experience suggests that in many situations one single objective function cannot adequately describe the model's ability to represent any aspect of the catchment's behaviour. This is regardless of whether the objective is aggregated of several criteria that measure different (possibly opposite) aspects of the system behaviour. One strategy to circumvent this problem is to define multiple objective functions and to apply a multi-objective optimisation algorithm to identify the set of Pareto optimal or non-dominated solutions. Nonetheless, there is a major disadvantage of automatic calibration procedures that understand the problem of model calibration just as the solution of an optimisation problem: due to the complex-shaped response surface, the estimated solution of the optimisation problem can result in different near-optimum parameter vectors that can lead to a very different performance on the validation data. Bárdossy and Singh (2008) studied this problem for single-objective calibration problems using the example of hydrological models and proposed a geometrical sampling approach called Robust Parameter Estimation (ROPE). This approach applies the concept of data depth in order to overcome the shortcomings of automatic calibration procedures and find a set of robust parameter vectors. Recent studies confirmed the effectivity of this method. However, all ROPE approaches published so far just identify robust model parameter vectors with respect to one single objective. The consideration of multiple objectives is just possible by aggregation. In this paper, we present an approach that combines the principles of multi-objective optimisation and depth-based sampling, entitled Multi-Objective Robust Parameter Estimation (MOROPE). It applies a multi-objective optimisation algorithm in order to identify non-dominated robust model parameter vectors. Subsequently, it samples parameter vectors with high data depth using a further developed sampling algorithm presented in Krauße and Cullmann (2012a). We study the effectivity of the proposed method using synthetical test functions and for the calibration of a distributed hydrologic model with focus on flood events in a small, pre-alpine, and fast responding catchment in Switzerland.