Articles | Volume 17, issue 1
Research article
17 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 17 Jan 2013

An approach to identify time consistent model parameters: sub-period calibration

S. Gharari, M. Hrachowitz, F. Fenicia, and H. H. G. Savenije

Abstract. Conceptual hydrological models rely on calibration for the identification of their parameters. As these models are typically designed to reflect real catchment processes, a key objective of an appropriate calibration strategy is the determination of parameter sets that reflect a "realistic" model behavior. Previous studies have shown that parameter estimates for different calibration periods can be significantly different. This questions model transposability in time, which is one of the key conditions for the set-up of a "realistic" model. This paper presents a new approach that selects parameter sets that provide a consistent model performance in time. The approach consists of testing model performance in different periods, and selecting parameter sets that are as close as possible to the optimum of each individual sub-period. While aiding model calibration, the approach is also useful as a diagnostic tool, illustrating tradeoffs in the identification of time-consistent parameter sets. The approach is applied to a case study in Luxembourg using the HyMod hydrological model as an example.