A Fully Bayesian Approach to Improved Calibration and Prediction of Groundwater Models With Structure Error

Monday, 15 December 2014
Tianfang Xu, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States and Albert J Valocchi, Univ Illinois, Urbana, IL, United States
Effective water resource management typically relies on numerical models to analyse groundwater flow and solute transport processes. These models are usually subject to model structure error due to simplification and/or misrepresentation of the real system. As a result, the model outputs may systematically deviate from measurements, thus violating a key assumption for traditional regression-based calibration and uncertainty analysis.

On the other hand, model structure error induced bias can be described statistically in an inductive, data-driven way based on historical model-to-measurement misfit. We adopt a fully Bayesian approach that integrates a Gaussian process error model to account for model structure error to the calibration, prediction and uncertainty analysis of groundwater models. The posterior distributions of parameters of the groundwater model and the Gaussian process error model are jointly inferred using DREAM, an efficient Markov chain Monte Carlo sampler.

We test the usefulness of the fully Bayesian approach towards a synthetic case study of surface-ground water interaction under changing pumping conditions. We first illustrate through this example that traditional least squares regression without accounting for model structure error yields biased parameter estimates due to parameter compensation as well as biased predictions. In contrast, the Bayesian approach gives less biased parameter estimates. Moreover, the integration of a Gaussian process error model significantly reduces predictive bias and leads to prediction intervals that are more consistent with observations. The results highlight the importance of explicit treatment of model structure error especially in circumstances where subsequent decision-making and risk analysis require accurate prediction and uncertainty quantification. In addition, the data-driven error modelling approach is capable of extracting more information from observation data than using a groundwater model alone.