17 Oct 2020

17 Oct 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Hydrology modelling R packages: a unified analysis of models and practicalities from a user perspective

Paul C. Astagneau1,2, Guillaume Thirel1, Olivier Delaigue1, Joseph H. A. Guillaume3, Juraj Parajka4, Claudia C. Brauer5, Alberto Viglione6, Wouter Buytaert7, and Keith J. Beven8 Paul C. Astagneau et al.
  • 1Université Paris-Saclay, INRAE, HYCAR Research Unit, Antony, France
  • 2Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  • 3Institute for Water Futures and Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • 4Institute of Hydraulic and Water Resources Engineering, TU Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 5Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 6Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy
  • 7Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
  • 8Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

Abstract. Following the rise of R as a scientific programming language, the increasing requirement for more transferable research, and the growth of data availability in hydrology, R packages containing hydrological models are becoming more and more available to hydrologists. Corresponding to the core of the hydrological studies workflow, their value is increasingly meaningful regarding the reliability of methods and results. Despite package and model distinctiveness, no study has ever provided a comparison of R packages for conceptual rainfall-runoff modelling from a user perspective, contrasting their philosophy, model characteristics and ease of use. We have selected eight packages based on our ability to consistently run their models on simple hydrology modelling examples. We have uniformly analysed the exact structure of seven of the hydrological models integrated in these R packages in terms of conceptual storages and fluxes, spatial discretisation, data requirements and output provided. The analysis showed that very different modelling choices are associated with these packages, which emphasises various hydrological concepts. These specificities are not always sufficiently well explained by the package documentation. Therefore a synthesis of the package functionalities was performed from a user perspective. This synthesis helps inform selection of what packages could/should be used depending on the problem at hand. In this regard, technical features, documentation, R implementations and computational times were investigated. Moreover, by providing a framework for package comparison, this study is a step forward towards supporting more transferable and reusable methods and results for hydrological modelling in R.

Paul C. Astagneau et al.

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Paul C. Astagneau et al.

Model code and software

Hydrology modelling R packages: codes for simulating streamflow using one parameter set Paul Astagneau, Guillaume Thirel and Olivier Delaigue

Paul C. Astagneau et al.


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Short summary
The R programming language has become an important tool for many applications in hydrology. In this study, we provide an analysis of some of the R tools providing hydrological models. Two aspects are uniformly investigated: the conceptualisation of the models and the practicality of their implementation for end-users. These comparisons aim at easing the choice of R tools for users and at improving their usability for hydrology modelling to support more transferable research.