Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Towards improved identification of spatially-distributed rainfall runoff models
by Pokhrel, Prafulla, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2010, 295; 3404269
Abstract (Summary)

Distributed rainfall runoff hydrologic models can be highly effective in improving flood forecasting capabilities at ungauged, interior locations of the watershed. However, their implementation in operational decision-making is hindered by the high dimensionality of the state-parameter space and by lack of methods/understanding on how to properly exploit and incorporate available spatio-temporal information about the system. This dissertation is composed of a sequence of five studies, whose overall goal is to improve understanding on problems relating to parameter identifiability in distributed models and to develop methodologies for their calibration.

The first study proposes and investigates an approach for calibrating catchment scale distributed rainfall-runoff models using conventionally available data. The process, called regularization, uses spatial information about soils and land-use that is embedded in prior parameter estimates (Koren et al. 2000) and knowledge of watershed characteristics, to constrain and reduce the dimensionality of the feasible parameter space.

The methodology is further extended in the second and third studies to improve extraction of ‘hydrologically relevant’ information from the observed streamflow hydrograph. Hydrological relevance is provided by using signature measures (Yilmaz et al. 2008) that correspond to major watershed functions. While the second study applies a manual selection procedure to constrain parameter sets from the subset of post calibrated solutions, the third develops an automatic procedure based on a penalty function optimization approach.

The fourth paper investigates the relative impact of using the commonly used multiplier approach to distributed model calibration, in comparison with other spatial regularization strategies and also includes investigations on whether calibration to data at the catchment outlet can provide improved performance at interior locations. The model calibration study conducted for three mid sized catchments in the US led to the important finding that basin outlet hydrographs might not generally contain information regarding spatial variability of the parameters, and that calibration of the overall mean of the spatially distributed parameter fields may be sufficient for flow forecasting at the outlet. This then was the motivation for the fifth paper which investigates to what degree the spatial characteristics of parameter and rainfall fields can be observable in catchment outlet hydrographs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gupta, Hoshin V.
Commitee: Dominguez, Francina, Shuttleworth, James W.
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Hydrology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Hydrologic sciences
Keywords: Distributed watershed models, Multiple-criteria calibration, Parameter estimation, Rainfall, Regularization, Runoff
Publication Number: 3404269
ISBN: 978-1-124-01007-6
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