Improving the theoretical underpinnings of process-based hydrologic models

Martyn P. Clark*, Bettina Schaefli, Stanislaus J. Schymanski, Luis Samaniego, Charles H. Luce, Bethanna M. Jackson, Jim E. Freer, Jeffrey R. Arnold, R. Dan Moore, Erkan Istanbulluoglu, Serena Ceola

*Corresponding author for this work

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

53 Citations (Scopus)
288 Downloads (Pure)


In this Commentary, we argue that it is possible to improve the physical realism of hydrologic models by making better use of existing hydrologic theory. We address the following questions: (1) what are some key elements of current hydrologic theory; (2) how can those elements best be incorporated where they may be missing in current models; and (3) how can we evaluate competing hydrologic theories across scales and locations? We propose that hydrologic science would benefit from a model-based community synthesis effort to reframe, integrate, and evaluate different explanations of hydrologic behavior, and provide a controlled avenue to find where understanding falls short.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2350-2365
Number of pages16
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
Early online date11 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2016


  • hydrologic theory
  • model evaluation
  • multiple hypotheses
  • uncertainty

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