The Model Parameter Estimation Experiment (MOPEX) is an international project aimed at developing enhanced techniques for the a priori estimation of parameters in hydrologic models and in land surface parameterization schemes of atmospheric models. The MOPEX science strategy involves three major steps: data preparation, a priori parameter estimation methodology development, and demonstration of parameter transferability. A comprehensive MOPEX database has been developed that contains historical hydrometeorological data and land surface characteristics data for many hydrologic basins in the United States (US) and in other countries. This database is being continuously expanded to include more basins in all parts of the world. A number of international MOPEX workshops have been convened to bring together interested hydrologists and land surface modelers from all over world to exchange knowledge and experience in developing a priori parameter estimation techniques. This paper describes the results from the second and third MOPEX workshops. The specific objective of these workshops is to examine the state of a priori parameter estimation techniques and how they can be potentially improved with observations from well-monitored hydrologic basins. Participants of the second and third MOPEX workshops were provided with data from 12 basins in the southeastern US and were asked to carry out a series of numerical experiments using a priori parameters as well as calibrated parameters developed for their respective hydrologic models. Different modeling groups carried out all the required experiments independently using eight different models, and the results from these models have been assembled for analysis in this paper. This paper presents an overview of the MOPEX experiment and its design. The main experimental results are analyzed. A key finding is that existing a priori parameter estimation procedures are problematic and need improvement. Significant improvement of these procedures may be achieved through model calibration of well-monitored hydrologic basins. This paper concludes with a discussion of the lessons learned, and points out further work and future strategy. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.