Uniqueness of place and process representations in hydrological modelling
Abstract. This paper addresses the problem of uniqueness of catchment areas in relation to model representations of flow processes. The uniqueness of field measurements as a limitation on model representations is discussed. The treatment of uniqueness as a residual from a modelled relationship may conceal information about the uniqueness of catchments, while the treatment of uniqueness as a set of parameter values within a particular model structure is problematic due to the equifinality of model structures and parameter sets. The analysis suggests that a fully reductionist approach to describe the uniqueness of individual catchment areas by the aggregation of descriptions of small scale behaviour will be impossible given current measurement technologies. A suggested strategy for the representation of uniqueness of place as a fuzzy mapping of the landscape into a model space is suggested. This will lead to a quantification of the uncertainty in predictions of any particular location in a way that allows a conditioning of the mapping on the basis of the available data. This process can incorporate a hypothesis testing approach to model evaluation but the problem of multiple behavioural models may provide an ultimate limitation on the realism of process representations: not on the principle of realism but on the possibility of unambiguous process representations.