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Water 2017, 9(6), 384; doi:10.3390/w9060384

Sensitivity of Calibrated Parameters and Water Resource Estimates on Different Objective Functions and Optimization Algorithms

1
Water Science and Engineering Department, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, 9177948974 Mashhad, Iran
2
Water Engineering Department, Shiraz University, 7144165186 Shiraz, Iran
3
Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt
Received: 31 March 2017 / Revised: 21 May 2017 / Accepted: 24 May 2017 / Published: 30 May 2017
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Abstract

The successful application of hydrological models relies on careful calibration and uncertainty analysis. However, there are many different calibration/uncertainty analysis algorithms, and each could be run with different objective functions. In this paper, we highlight the fact that each combination of optimization algorithm-objective functions may lead to a different set of optimum parameters, while having the same performance; this makes the interpretation of dominant hydrological processes in a watershed highly uncertain. We used three different optimization algorithms (SUFI-2, GLUE, and PSO), and eight different objective functions (R2, bR2, NSE, MNS, RSR, SSQR, KGE, and PBIAS) in a SWAT model to calibrate the monthly discharges in two watersheds in Iran. The results show that all three algorithms, using the same objective function, produced acceptable calibration results; however, with significantly different parameter ranges. Similarly, an algorithm using different objective functions also produced acceptable calibration results, but with different parameter ranges. The different calibrated parameter ranges consequently resulted in significantly different water resource estimates. Hence, the parameters and the outputs that they produce in a calibrated model are “conditioned” on the choices of the optimization algorithm and objective function. This adds another level of non-negligible uncertainty to watershed models, calling for more attention and investigation in this area. View Full-Text
Keywords: calibration; uncertainty analysis; conditional parameters; SUFI-2; GLUE; PSO calibration; uncertainty analysis; conditional parameters; SUFI-2; GLUE; PSO
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Kouchi, D.H.; Esmaili, K.; Faridhosseini, A.; Sanaeinejad, S.H.; Khalili, D.; Abbaspour, K.C. Sensitivity of Calibrated Parameters and Water Resource Estimates on Different Objective Functions and Optimization Algorithms. Water 2017, 9, 384.

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