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Design and experimentation of an empirical multistructure framework for accurate, sharp and reliable hydrological ensembles

Seiller, G., Anctil, F., Roy, R.
Journal of hydrology 2017 v.552 pp. 313-340
children, hydrologic models, runoff, time series analysis, watersheds
This paper outlines the design and experimentation of an Empirical Multistructure Framework (EMF) for lumped conceptual hydrological modeling. This concept is inspired from modular frameworks, empirical model development, and multimodel applications, and encompasses the overproduce and select paradigm. The EMF concept aims to reduce subjectivity in conceptual hydrological modeling practice and includes model selection in the optimisation steps, reducing initial assumptions on the prior perception of the dominant rainfall-runoff transformation processes. EMF generates thousands of new modeling options from, for now, twelve parent models that share their functional components and parameters. Optimisation resorts to ensemble calibration, ranking and selection of individual child time series based on optimal bias and reliability trade-offs, as well as accuracy and sharpness improvement of the ensemble. Results on 37 snow-dominated Canadian catchments and 20 climatically-diversified American catchments reveal the excellent potential of the EMF in generating new individual model alternatives, with high respective performance values, that may be pooled efficiently into ensembles of seven to sixty constitutive members, with low bias and high accuracy, sharpness, and reliability. A group of 1446 new models is highlighted to offer good potential on other catchments or applications, based on their individual and collective interests. An analysis of the preferred functional components reveals the importance of the production and total flow elements. Overall, results from this research confirm the added value of ensemble and flexible approaches for hydrological applications, especially in uncertain contexts, and open up new modeling possibilities.