Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-691
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
29 Nov 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
Incremental model breakdown to assess the multi-hypotheses problem
Florian U. Jehn1, Lutz Breuer1,2, Tobias Houska1, Konrad Bestian1, and Philipp Kraft1 1Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management (ILR), Research Centre for BioSystems, Land Use and Nutrition (iFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26, 35390 Giessen, Germany
2Centre for International Development and Environmental Research (ZEU), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Senckenbergstrasse 3, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Abstract. The ambiguous representation of hydrological processes have led to the formulation of the multiple hypotheses approach in hydrological modelling, which requires new ways of model construction. However, most recent studies focus only on the comparison of predefined model structures or building a model step-by-step. This study tackles the problem the other way around: We start with one complex model structure, which includes all processes deemed to be important for the catchment. Next, we create 13 additional simplified models, where some of the processes from the starting structure are disabled. The performance of those models is evaluated using three objective functions (logarithmic Nash-Sutcliffe, percentage bias and the ratio between root mean square error to the standard deviation of the measured data). Through this incremental breakdown, we identify the most important processes and detect the restraining ones. This procedure allows constructing a more streamlined, subsequent 15th model with improved model performance, less uncertainty and higher model efficiency. We benchmark the original Model 1 with the final Model 15 and find that the incremental model breakdown leads to a structure with good model performance, fewer but more relevant processes and less model parameters.

Citation: Jehn, F. U., Breuer, L., Houska, T., Bestian, K., and Kraft, P.: Incremental model breakdown to assess the multi-hypotheses problem, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-691, in review, 2017.
Florian U. Jehn et al.
Florian U. Jehn et al.

Model code and software

Github repository with code for all 15 models
F. U. Jehn
https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1067940
Florian U. Jehn et al.

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Short summary
To be able to understand why a model works one must examine the effects of the processes in it separately. We did this, by first creating a model with many different processes. From this first model structure 13 additional structures were derived by disabling processes. Those were tested for performance. The insights gained from this allowed us to identify what makes the models work, which in turn enabled the construction of a streamlined 15th model with less parameters and good performance.
To be able to understand why a model works one must examine the effects of the processes in it...
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