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Information content of spatially distributed ground-based measurements for hydrologic-parameter calibration in mixed rain-snow mountain headwaters


Parameters in hydrologic models used in mixed rain-snow regions are often uncertain to calibrate and overfitted on streamflow. To contribute addressing these challenges, we used an algorithm that assesses modeling performances through time (Dynamic Identifiability Analysis) to quantify the information content of spatially distributed ground-based measurements for identifying optimal parameter values in the Precipitation Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) model. Including spatially distributed ground-based measurements in Identifiability Analysis allowed us to unambiguously estimate more parameter values than only using streamflow (seven parameters instead of two out of a pool of thirty-three). Peaks in information gain were obtained when using dew-point temperature to identify precipitation phase-partitioning parameters. Multi-attribute identifiability analysis also yielded optimal parameter values that were temporally less variable than those estimated using streamflow alone. Overall, identifying parameter values using ground-based measurements improved the simulation of key drivers of the surface-water budget, such as air temperature and precipitation-phase partitioning. However, parameters simulating surface-to-subsurface mass fluxes like snow accumulation and melt or evapotranspiration were poorly identified by any attribute and so emerged as key sources of predictive uncertainty for this distributed-parameter hydrologic model. This work demonstrates the value of expanded ground-based measurements for identifying parameters in distributed-parameter hydrologic models and so diagnosing their conceptual uncertainty across the water budget.

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