Main content area

Non‐stationary hydrological model parameters: a framework based on SOM‐B

Wallner, Markus, Haberlandt, Uwe
Hydrological processes 2015 v.29 no.14 pp. 3145-3161
algorithms, climate, hydrologic models, model validation, parameter uncertainty, watersheds, Germany
The application of stationary parameters in conceptual hydrological models, even under changing boundary conditions, is a common yet unproven practice. This study investigates the impact of non‐stationary model parameters on model performance for different flow indices and time scales. Therefore, a Self‐Organizing Map based optimization approach, which links non‐stationary model parameters with climate indices, is presented and tested on seven meso‐scale catchments in northern Germany. The algorithm automatically groups sub‐periods with similar climate characteristics and allocates them to similar model parameter sets. The climate indices used for the classification of sub‐periods are based on (a) yearly means and (b) a moving average over the previous 61 days. Classification b supports the estimation of continuous non‐stationary parameters. The results show that (i) non‐stationary model parameters can improve the performance of hydrological models with an acceptable growth in parameter uncertainty; (ii) some model parameters are highly correlated to some climate indices; (iii) the model performance improves more for monthly means than yearly means; and (iv) in general low to medium flows improve more than high flows. It was further shown how the gained knowledge can be used to identify insufficiencies in the model structure.