Robust Water Balance Modeling with Uncertain Discharge and Precipitation Data : Computational Geometry as a New Tool

Abstract: Models are important tools for understanding the hydrological processes that govern water transport in the landscape and for prediction at times and places where no observations are available. The degree of trust placed on models, however, should not exceed the quality of the data they are fed with. The overall aim of this thesis was to tune the modeling process to account for the uncertainty in the data, by identifying robust parameter values using methods from computational geometry. The methods were developed and tested on data from the Choluteca River basin in Honduras.Quality control of precipitation and discharge data resulted in a rejection of 22% percent of daily raingage data and the complete removal of one out of the seven discharge stations analyzed. The raingage network was not found sufficient to capture the spatial and temporal variability of precipitation in the Choluteca River basin. The temporal variability of discharge was evaluated through a Monte Carlo assessment of the rating-equation parameter values over a moving time window of stage-discharge measurements. Al hydrometric stations showed considerable temporal variability in the stage-discharge relationship, which was largest for low flows, albeit with no common trend. The problem with limited data quality was addressed by identifying robust model parameter values within the set of well-performing (behavioral) parameter-value vectors with computational-geometry methods. The hypothesis that geometrically deep parameter-value vectors within the behavioral set were hydrologically robust was tested, and verified, using two depth functions. Deep parameter-value vectors tended to perform better than shallow ones, were less sensitive to small changes in their values, and were better suited to temporal transfer. Depth functions rank multidimensional data. Methods to visualize the multivariate distribution of behavioral parameters based on the ranked values were developed. It was shown that, by projecting along a common dimension, the multivariate distribution of behavioral parameters for models of varying complexity could be compared using the proposed visualization tools. This has a potential to aid in the selection of an adequate model structure considering the uncertainty in the data.These methods allowed to quantify observational uncertainties. Geometric methods have only recently begun to be used in hydrology. It was shown that they can be used to identify robust parameter values, and some of their potential uses were highlighted.