On characterizing the temporal dominance patterns of model parameters and processes

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Abstract

Diagnostic analyses of hydrological models intend to improve the understanding of how processes and their dynamics are represented in models. Temporal patterns of parameter dominance could be precisely characterized with a temporally resolved parameter sensitivity analysis. In this way, the discharge conditions are characterized, that lead to a parameter dominance in the model. To achieve this, the analysis of temporal dynamics in parameter sensitivity is enhanced by including additional information in a three-tiered framework on different aggregation levels. Firstly, temporal dynamics of parameter sensitivity provide daily time series of their sensitivities to detect variations in the dominance of model parameters. Secondly, the daily sensitivities are related to the flow duration curve (FDC) to emphasize high sensitivities of model parameters in relation to specific discharge magnitudes. Thirdly, parameter sensitivities are monthly averaged separately for five segments of the FDC to detect typical patterns of parameter dominances for different discharge magnitudes. The three methodical steps are applied on two contrasting catchments (upland and lowland catchment) to demonstrate how the temporal patterns of parameter dynamics represent different hydrological regimes. The discharge dynamic in the lowland catchment is controlled by groundwater parameters for all discharge magnitudes. In contrast, different processes are relevant in the upland catchment, because the dominances of parameters from fast and slow runoff components in the upland catchment are changing over the year for the different discharge magnitudes. The joined interpretation of these three diagnostic steps provides deeper insights of how model parameters represent hydrological dynamics in models for different discharge magnitudes. Thus, this diagnostic framework leads to a better characterization of model parameters and their temporal dynamics and helps to understand the process behaviour in hydrological models. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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