Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-170
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-170

  12 Apr 2021

12 Apr 2021

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

If a Rainfall-Runoff Model was a Hydrologist

John Ewen and Greg Martin O'Donnell John Ewen and Greg Martin O'Donnell
  • School of Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK

Abstract. Personification can be annoying, but also instructive. If a Rainfall-Runoff (RR) model was a hydrologist it could be called the Modelled Hydrologist, MH. Ideally, an MH used when tackling real–world problems such as flooding and climate change would be acquainted with hydrologic laws at the catchment scale and with a diverse panel of desk and field hydrologists who have between them thousands of years of experience. In practice, though, the MHs for RR models are largely ignorant of hydrology. Some of this ignorance is real (e.g. the hydrologic laws are unknown). The rest is selective ignorance, as is practised throughout science whenever there is a need for complex system analysis, parsimony, or similar. It is a form of designed neglect. In lumped RR modelling, the classic MH is that used in Jakeman and Hornberger’s experiment on their question “How much complexity is warranted in a rainfall–runoff model?”. Based on what that MH “knows” it is a statistician dilettante–hydrologist. When studying difficult and confusing problems (conundrums) like RR modelling it is helpful to have simple concrete examples to use as benchmarks and when generating hypotheses. Here, an MH for lumped modelling is built which is a layman with an interest in the weather and river flows (e.g. a river fisherman). The MH is created in a novel experiment in which statements of knowledge in everyday English are transformed systematically into a novel parameterless RR model. For a set of 38 UK catchments, the relative importance is measured as 1 and 6, respectively, for the layman’s knowledge about seasonality and wetness, and 2 for the knowledge that runoff records are always unpredictable to some degree. Hydrologic laws are discussed and hydrologic similarly in time and place is explored.

John Ewen and Greg Martin O'Donnell

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Review of hess-2021-170', Keith Beven, 23 Apr 2021
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC1', Greg O'Donnell, 07 Jun 2021
  • CC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-170', Grey Nearing, 27 Apr 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on CC1', Greg O'Donnell, 07 May 2021
      • CC3: 'Reply on AC1', Grey Nearing, 07 May 2021
      • CC4: 'Reply on AC1', Grey Nearing, 07 May 2021
        • AC2: 'Reply on CC4', Greg O'Donnell, 17 May 2021
          • CC5: 'Reply on AC2', Grey Nearing, 17 May 2021
          • CC6: 'Reply on AC2', Grey Nearing, 17 May 2021
            • AC5: 'Reply on CC6', Greg O'Donnell, 07 Jun 2021
  • CC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-170', Grey Nearing, 27 Apr 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2021-170', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 May 2021
    • AC4: 'Reply on RC2', Greg O'Donnell, 07 Jun 2021
  • EC1: 'Editor comment on hess-2021-170', Jan Seibert, 26 Jun 2021

John Ewen and Greg Martin O'Donnell

John Ewen and Greg Martin O'Donnell

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Short summary
Models for the water flow from river catchments are used when making decisions about flooding, climate change, etc. The models should depend directly and transparently on things known about how catchments generate flow, but that is not always the case. In an example, all the knowledge in a model is made visible as a set of statements in everyday English. The aim is to help improve the quality of future decisions by exploring the problem and creating a concrete example for use as a benchmark.