Abstract. There are two main frameworks for the estimation of initial states in geophysical models for real-time and forecasting applications: sequential data assimilation and variational data assimilation. However, modern high-resolution models offer challenges, both in terms of indeterminacy and computational requirements, which render most traditional methods insufficient. In this article we introduce a hybrid algorithm called OPTIMISTS which combines advantageous features from both of these data assimilation perspectives. These features are integrated with a multi-objective approach for selecting ensemble members to create a probabilistic estimate of the state variables, which promotes the reduction of observational errors as well as the maintenance of the dynamic consistency of states. Additionally, we propose simplified computations as alternatives aimed at reducing memory and processor requirements. OPTIMISTS was tested on two models of real watersheds, one with over 1,000 variables and the second with over 30,000, on two distributed hydrologic modelling engines: VIC and the DHSVM. Our tests, consisting of assimilating streamflow observations, allowed determining which features of the traditional approaches lead to more accurate forecasts while at the same time making an efficient use of the available computational resources. The results also demonstrated the benefits of the coupled probabilistic/multi-objective approach, which proved instrumental in reducing the harmful effects of overfitting – especially on the model with higher dimensionality.
Hernández, F. and Liang, X.: Hybridizing sequential and variational data assimilation for robust
high-resolution hydrologic forecasting, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-454, 2016.