Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 3455–3472, 2013
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 3455–3472, 2013

Research article 09 Sep 2013

Research article | 09 Sep 2013

Resolving structural errors in a spatially distributed hydrologic model using ensemble Kalman filter state updates

J. H. Spaaks1,2 and W. Bouten1 J. H. Spaaks and W. Bouten
  • 1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 2Netherlands eScience Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract. In hydrological modeling, model structures are developed in an iterative cycle as more and different types of measurements become available and our understanding of the hillslope or watershed improves. However, with increasing complexity of the model, it becomes more and more difficult to detect which parts of the model are deficient, or which processes should also be incorporated into the model during the next development step. In this study, we first compare two methods (the Shuffled Complex Evolution Metropolis algorithm (SCEM-UA) and the Simultaneous parameter Optimization and Data Assimilation algorithm (SODA)) to calibrate a purposely deficient 3-D hillslope-scale model to error-free, artificially generated measurements. We use a multi-objective approach based on distributed pressure head at the soil–bedrock interface and hillslope-scale discharge and water balance. For these idealized circumstances, SODA's usefulness as a diagnostic methodology is demonstrated by its ability to identify the timing and location of processes that are missing in the model. We show that SODA's state updates provide information that could readily be incorporated into an improved model structure, and that this type of information cannot be gained from parameter estimation methods such as SCEM-UA. We then expand on the SODA result by performing yet another calibration, in which we investigate whether SODA's state updating patterns are still capable of providing insight into model structure deficiencies when there are fewer measurements, which are moreover subject to measurement noise. We conclude that SODA can help guide the discussion between experimentalists and modelers by providing accurate and detailed information on how to improve spatially distributed hydrologic models.