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Hydrological model parameter (in)stability – “crash testing” the HBV model under contrasting flood seasonality conditions

Vormoor, Klaus, Heistermann, Maik, Bronstert, Axel, Lawrence, Deborah
Hydrological sciences journal 2018 v.63 no.7 pp. 991-1007
autumn, floods, hydrologic models, model validation, rain, runoff, snowmelt, spring, watersheds
This paper investigates the transferability of calibrated HBV model parameters under stable and contrasting conditions in terms of flood seasonality and flood generating processes (FGP) in five Norwegian catchments with mixed snowmelt/rainfall regimes. We apply a series of generalized (differential) split-sample tests using a 6-year moving window over (i) the entire runoff observation periods, and (ii) two subsets of runoff observations distinguished by the seasonal occurrence of annual maximum floods during either spring or autumn. The results indicate a general model performance loss due to the transfer of calibrated parameters to independent validation periods of −5 to −17%, on average. However, there is no indication that contrasting flood seasonality exacerbates performance losses, which contradicts the assumption that optimized parameter sets for snowmelt-dominated floods (during spring) perform particularly poorly on validation periods with rainfall-dominated floods (during autumn) and vice versa.