Where does the uncertainty come from? Attributing Uncertainty in Conceptual Hydrologic Modelling

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Syed Abu Shoaib, Lucy Amanda Marshall and Ashish Sharma, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Defining an appropriate forecasting model is a key phase in water resources planning and design. Quantification of uncertainty is an important step in the development and application of hydrologic models. In this study, we examine the dependency of hydrologic model uncertainty on the observed model inputs, defined model structure, parameter optimization identifiability and identified likelihood. We present here a new uncertainty metric, the Quantile Flow Deviation or QFD, to evaluate the relative uncertainty due to each of these sources under a range of catchment conditions. Through the metric, we may identify the potential spectrum of uncertainty and variability in model simulations. The QFD assesses uncertainty by estimating the deviation in flows at a given quantile across a range of scenarios. By using a quantile based metric, the change in uncertainty across individual percentiles can be assessed, thereby allowing uncertainty to be expressed as a function of time. The QFD method can be disaggregated to examine any part of the modelling process including the selection of certain model subroutines or forcing data. Case study results (including catchments in Australia and USA) suggest that model structure selection is vital irrespective of the flow percentile of interest or the catchment being studied. Examining the QFD across various quantiles additionally demonstrates that lower yielding catchments may have greater variation due to selected model structures. By incorporating multiple model structures, it is possible to assess (i) the relative importance of various sources of uncertainty, (ii) how these vary with the change in catchment location or hydrologic regime; and (iii) the impact of the length of available observations in uncertainty quantification.