Impact of dataset size on the signature-based calibration of a hydrological model

Safa A. Mohammed, Dimitri P. Solomatine, Markus Hrachowitz, Mohamed A. Hamouda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


Many calibrated hydrological models are inconsistent with the behavioral functions of catchments and do not fully represent the catchments’ underlying processes despite their seemingly adequate performance, if measured by traditional statistical error metrics. Using such metrics for calibration is hindered if only short-term data are available. This study investigated the influence of varying lengths of streamflow observation records on model calibration and evaluated the usefulness of a signature-based calibration approach in conceptual rainfall-runoff model calibration. Scenarios of continuous short-period observations were used to emulate poorly gauged catchments. Two approaches were employed to calibrate the HBV model for the Brue catchment in the UK. The first approach used single-objective optimization to maximize Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) as a goodness-of-fit measure. The second approach involved multiobjective optimization based on maximizing the scores of 11 signature indices, as well as maximizing NSE. In addition, a diagnostic model evaluation approach was used to evaluate both model performance and behavioral consistency. The results showed that the HBV model was successfully calibrated using short-term datasets with a lower limit of approximately four months of data (10% FRD model). One formulation of the multiobjective signature-based optimization approach yielded the highest performance and hydrological consistency among all parameterization algorithms. The diagnostic model evaluation enabled the selection of consistent models reflecting catchment behavior and allowed an accurate detection of deficiencies in other models. It can be argued that signature-based calibration can be employed for building adequate models even in data-poor situations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number970
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Brue catchment
  • Dataset size
  • Diagnostic evaluation approach
  • HBV model
  • Hydrological signatures
  • Lumped model calibration
  • Multiobjective optimization
  • Poorly gauged catchments


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