Parameter optimization and uncertainty issues are a great challenge for the application of large environmental models like the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), which is a physically-based hydrological model for simulating water and nutrient cycles at the watershed scale. In this study, we present a comprehensive modeling environment for SWAT, including automated calibration, and sensitivity and uncertainty analysis capabilities through integration with the R package Flexible Modeling Environment (FME). To address challenges (e.g., calling the model in R and transferring variables between Fortran and R) in developing such a two-language coupling framework, 1) we converted the Fortran-based SWAT model to an R function (R-SWAT) using the RFortran platform, and alternatively 2) we compiled SWAT as a Dynamic Link Library (DLL). We then wrapped SWAT (via R-SWAT) with FME to perform complex applications including parameter identifiability, inverse modeling, and sensitivity and uncertainty analysis in the R environment. The final R-SWAT-FME framework has the following key functionalities: automatic initialization of R, running Fortran-based SWAT and R commands in parallel, transferring parameters and model output between SWAT and R, and inverse modeling with visualization. To examine this framework and demonstrate how it works, a case study simulating streamflow in the Cedar River Basin in Iowa in the United Sates was used, and we compared it with the built-in auto-calibration tool of SWAT in parameter optimization. Results indicate that both methods performed well and similarly in searching a set of optimal parameters. Nonetheless, the R-SWAT-FME is more attractive due to its instant visualization, and potential to take advantage of other R packages (e.g., inverse modeling and statistical graphics). The methods presented in the paper are readily adaptable to other model applications that require capability for automated calibration, and sensitivity and uncertainty analysis.
Additional publication details
Automating calibration, sensitivity and uncertainty analysis of complex models using the R package Flexible Modeling Environment (FME): SWAT as an example
Environmental Modelling and Software
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center