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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 02 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 02 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Hierarchical Sensitivity Analysis for Large Scale Process-based Hydrological Modeling with Application in an Amazonian Watershed

Haifan Liu1, Heng Dai2, Jie Niu2, Bill X. Hu2, Han Qiu3, Dongwei Gui4, Ming Ye5, Xingyuan Chen6, Chuanhao Wu2, Jin Zhang2, and William Riley7 Haifan Liu et al.
  • 1School of Water Resources and Environment, China University of Geosciences, Beijing, 100083, China
  • 2Institute of Groundwater and Earth Sciences, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
  • 4Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
  • 5Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
  • 6Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99352, USA
  • 7Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California, USA

Abstract. Sensitivity analysis is an effective tool for identifying important uncertainty sources and improving model calibration and predictions, especially for integrated systems with heterogeneous parameter inputs and complex processes coevolution. In this work, an advanced hierarchical global sensitivity analysis framework, which integrates a hierarchical uncertainty framework and a variance-based global sensitivity analysis, was implemented to quantitatively analyze several uncertainties of a three-dimensional, process-based hydrologic model (PAWS). The uncertainty sources considered include model parameters, model structures (with/without overland flow module), and climate forcing. We apply the approach in a ~ 9000 km2 Amazon catchment modeled at 1 km resolution to provide a demonstration of multiple uncertainty source quantification using a large-scale process-based hydrologic model. The sensitivity indices are assessed based on three important hydrologic outputs: evapotranspiration (ET), ground evaporation (EG), and groundwater contribution to streamflow (QG). It is found that, in general, model parameters (especially those within the streamside model grid cells) are the most important uncertainty contributor for all sensitivity indices. In addition, the overland flow module significantly contributes to model predictive uncertainty. These results can assist model calibration and provide modelers a better understanding of the general sources of uncertainty in predictions of complex hydrological systems in Amazonia. We demonstrated a pilot example for comprehensive global sensitivity analysis of large-scale complex hydrological models in this research. The hierarchical sensitivity analysis methodology used is mathematically rigorous and can be applied to a wide range of large-scale hydrological models with various sources of uncertainty.

Haifan Liu et al.
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Haifan Liu et al.
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