Comparing sensitivity analysis methods to advance lumped watershed model identification and evaluation

Y. Tang, Patrick Reed, Thorsten Wagener, K. van Werkhoven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

232 Citations (Scopus)
207 Downloads (Pure)


This study seeks to identify sensitivity tools that will advance our understanding of lumped hydrologic models for the purposes of model improvement, calibration efficiency and improved measurement schemes. Four sensitivity analysis methods were tested: (1) local analysis using parameter estimation software (PEST), (2) regional sensitivity analysis (RSA), (3) analysis of variance (ANOVA), and (4) Sobol's method. The methods' relative efficiencies and effectiveness have been analyzed and compared. These four sensitivity methods were applied to the lumped Sacramento soil moisture accounting model (SAC-SMA) coupled with SNOW-17. Results from this study characterize model sensitivities for two medium sized watersheds within the Juniata River Basin in Pennsylvania, USA. Comparative results for the 4 sensitivity methods are presented for a 3-year time series with 1 h, 6 h, and 24 h time intervals. The results of this study show that model parameter sensitivities are heavily impacted by the choice of analysis method as well as the model time interval. Differences between the two adjacent watersheds also suggest strong influences of local physical characteristics on the sensitivity methods' results. This study also contributes a comprehensive assessment of the repeatability, robustness, efficiency, and ease-of-implementation of the four sensitivity methods. Overall ANOVA and Sobol's method were shown to be superior to RSA and PEST. Relative to one another, ANOVA has reduced computational requirements and Sobol's method yielded more robust sensitivity rankings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-817
Number of pages25
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date5 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


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