The problems of identifying the most appropriate model structure for a given problem and quantifying the uncertainty in model structure remain outstanding research challenges for the discipline of hydrology. Progress on these problems requires understanding of the nature of differences between models. This paper presents a methodology to diagnose differences in hydrological model structures: the Framework for Understanding Structural Errors (FUSE). FUSE was used to construct 79 unique model structures by combining components of 4 existing hydrological models. These new models were used to simulate streamflow in two of the basins used in the Model Parameter Estimation Experiment (MOPEX): the Guadalupe River (Texas) and the French Broad River (North Carolina). Results show that the new models produced simulations of streamflow that were at least as good as the simulations produced by the models that participated in the MOPEX experiment. Our initial application of the FUSE method for the Guadalupe River exposed relationships between model structure and model performance, suggesting that the choice of model structure is just as important as the choice of model parameters. However, further work is needed to evaluate model simulations using multiple criteria to diagnose the relative importance of model structural differences in various climate regimes and to assess the amount of independent information in each of the models. This work will be crucial to both identifying the most appropriate model structure for a given problem and quantifying the uncertainty in model structure. To facilitate research on these problems, the FORTRAN-90 source code for FUSE is available upon request from the lead author.
Additional publication details
Framework for Understanding Structural Errors (FUSE): a modular framework to diagnose differences between hydrological models