Nonlinear regression is used to estimate optimal parameter values in models of groundwater flow to ensure that differences between predicted and observed heads and flows do not result from nonoptimal parameter values. Parameter estimates can be affected, however, by observations that disproportionately influence the regression, such as outliers that exert undue leverage on the objective function. Certain statistics developed for linear regression can be used to detect influential observations in nonlinear regression if the models are approximately linear. This paper discusses the application of Cook's D, which measures the effect of omitting a single observation on a set of estimated parameter values, and the statistical parameter DFBETAS, which quantifies the influence of an observation on each parameter. The influence statistics were used to (1) identify the influential observations in the calibration of a three-dimensional, groundwater flow model of a fractured-rock aquifer through nonlinear regression, and (2) quantify the effect of omitting influential observations on the set of estimated parameter values. Comparison of the spatial distribution of Cook's D with plots of model sensitivity shows that influential observations correspond to areas where the model heads are most sensitive to certain parameters, and where predicted groundwater flow rates are largest. Five of the six discharge observations were identified as influential, indicating that reliable measurements of groundwater flow rates are valuable data in model calibration. DFBETAS are computed and examined for an alternative model of the aquifer system to identify a parameterization error in the model design that resulted in overestimation of the effect of anisotropy on horizontal hydraulic conductivity.
Additional publication details
Detecting influential observations in nonlinear regression modeling of groundwater flow