Sensitivity analysis of environmental models: A systematic review with practical workflow

Francesca Pianosi, Keith Beven, Jim E Freer, Jim W. Hall, Jonathan Rougier, David B. Stephenson, Thorsten Wagener

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

895 Citations (Scopus)
1346 Downloads (Pure)


Sensitivity Analysis (SA) investigates how the variation in the output of a numerical model can be attributed to variations of its input factors. SA is increasingly being used in environmental modelling for a variety of purposes, including uncertainty assessment, model calibration and diagnostic evaluation, dominant control analysis and robust decision-making. In this paper we review the SA literature with the goal of providing: (i) a comprehensive view of SA approaches also in relation to other methodologies for model identification and application; (ii) a systematic classification of the most commonly used SA methods; (iii) practical guidelines for the application of SA. The paper aims at delivering an introduction to SA for non-specialist readers, as well as practical advice with best practice examples from the literature; and at stimulating the discussion within the community of SA developers and users regarding the setting of good practices and on defining priorities for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-232
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Early online date18 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

Structured keywords

  • Water and Environmental Engineering


  • Sensitivity Analysis
  • Uncertainty Analysis
  • Calibration
  • Evaluation
  • Robust decision-making


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