When are multiobjective calibration trade-offs in hydrologic models meaningful?

J. B. Kollat, P. M. Reed, T. Wagener

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

88 Citations (Scopus)


This paper applies a four-objective calibration strategy focusing on peak flows, low flows, water balance, and flashiness to 392 model parameter estimation experiment (MOPEX) watersheds across the United States. Our analysis explores the influence of model structure by analyzing how the multiobjective calibration trade-offs for two conceptual hydrologic models, the Hydrology Model (HYMOD) and the Hydrologiska Byrans Vattenbalansavdelning (HBV) model, compare for each of the 392 catchments. Our results demonstrate that for modern multiobjective calibration frameworks to identify any meaningful measure of model structural failure, users must be able to carefully control the precision by which they evaluate their trade-offs. Our study demonstrates that the concept of epsilon-dominance provides an effective means of attaining bounded and meaningful hydrologic model calibration trade-offs. When analyzed at an appropriate precision, we found that meaningful multiobjective trade-offs are far less frequent than prior literature has suggested. However, when trade-offs do exist at a meaningful precision, they have significant value for supporting hydrologic model selection, distinguishing core model deficiencies, and identifying hydroclimatic regions where hydrologic model prediction is highly challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW03520
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2012

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