Uncertainty assessment and implications for data acquisition in support of integrated hydrologic models

Philip Brunner, J Doherty, Craig T Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


The data set used for calibration of regional numerical models which simulate groundwater flow and vadose zone processes is often dominated by head observations. It is to be expected therefore, that parameters describing vadose zone processes are poorly constrained. A number of studies on small spatial scales explored how additional data types used in calibration constrain vadose zone parameters or reduce predictive uncertainty. However, available studies focused on subsets of observation types and did not jointly account for different measurement accuracies or different hydrologic conditions. In this study, parameter identifiability and predictive uncertainty are quantified in simulation of a 1-D vadose zone soil system driven by infiltration, evaporation and transpiration. The worth of different types of observation data (employed individually, in combination, and with different measurement accuracies) is evaluated by using a linear methodology and a nonlinear Pareto-based methodology under different hydrological conditions. Our main conclusions are (1) Linear analysis provides valuable information on comparative parameter and predictive uncertainty reduction accrued through acquisition of different data types. Its use can be supplemented by nonlinear methods. (2) Measurements of water table elevation can support future water table predictions, even if such measurements inform the individual parameters of vadose zone models to only a small degree. (3) The benefits of including ET and soil moisture observations in the calibration data set are heavily dependent on depth to groundwater. (4) Measurements of groundwater levels, measurements of vadose ET or soil moisture poorly constrain regional groundwater system forcing functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW07513
Pages (from-to)W07513
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Uncertainty assessment and implications for data acquisition in support of integrated hydrologic models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this