Articles | Volume 19, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1727–1751, 2015
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1727–1751, 2015

Research article 16 Apr 2015

Research article | 16 Apr 2015

Uncertainty reduction and parameter estimation of a distributed hydrological model with ground and remote-sensing data

F. Silvestro1, S. Gabellani1, R. Rudari1, F. Delogu1, P. Laiolo1, and G. Boni1,2 F. Silvestro et al.
  • 1CIMA Research Foundation, Savona, Italy
  • 2DIBRIS, University of Genova, Genova, Italy

Abstract. During the last decade the opportunity and usefulness of using remote-sensing data in hydrology, hydrometeorology and geomorphology has become even more evident and clear. Satellite-based products often allow for the advantage of observing hydrologic variables in a distributed way, offering a different view with respect to traditional observations that can help with understanding and modeling the hydrological cycle. Moreover, remote-sensing data are fundamental in scarce data environments. The use of satellite-derived digital elevation models (DEMs), which are now globally available at 30 m resolution (e.g., from Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission, SRTM), have become standard practice in hydrologic model implementation, but other types of satellite-derived data are still underutilized. As a consequence there is the need for developing and testing techniques that allow the opportunities given by remote-sensing data to be exploited, parameterizing hydrological models and improving their calibration.

In this work, Meteosat Second Generation land-surface temperature (LST) estimates and surface soil moisture (SSM), available from European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) H-SAF, are used together with streamflow observations (S. N.) to calibrate the Continuum hydrological model that computes such state variables in a prognostic mode. The first part of the work aims at proving that satellite observations can be exploited to reduce uncertainties in parameter calibration by reducing the parameter equifinality that can become an issue in forecast mode. In the second part, four parameter estimation strategies are implemented and tested in a comparative mode: (i) a multi-objective approach that includes both satellite and ground observations which is an attempt to use different sources of data to add constraints to the parameters; (ii and iii) two approaches solely based on remotely sensed data that reproduce the case of a scarce data environment where streamflow observation are not available; (iv) a standard calibration based on streamflow observations used as a benchmark for the others. Two Italian catchments are used as a test bed to verify the model capability in reproducing long-term (multi-year) simulations. The results of the analysis evidence that, as a result of the model structure and the nature itself of the catchment hydrologic processes, some model parameters are only weakly dependent on discharge observations, and prove the usefulness of using data from both ground stations and satellites to additionally constrain the parameters in the calibration process and reduce the number of equifinal solutions.