Predictions in ungauged basins: an approach for regionalization of hydrological models considering the probability distribution of model parameters

P. Athira, K. P. Sudheer, R. Cibin, I. Chaubey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Regionalization of model parameters by developing appropriate functional relationship between the parameters and basin characteristics is one of the potential approaches to employ hydrological models in ungauged basins. While this is a widely accepted procedure, the uniqueness of the watersheds and the equifinality of parameters bring lot of uncertainty in the simulations in ungauged basins. This study proposes a method of regionalization based on the probability distribution function of model parameters, which accounts the variability in the catchment characteristics. It is envisaged that the probability distribution function represents the characteristics of the model parameter, and when regionalized the earlier concerns can be addressed appropriately. The method employs probability distribution of parameters, derived from gauged basins, to regionalize by regressing them against the catchment attributes. These regional functions are used to develop the parameter characteristics in ungauged basins based on the catchment attributes. The proposed method is illustrated using soil water assessment tool model for an ungauged basin prediction. For this numerical exercise, eight different watersheds spanning across different climatic settings in the USA are considered. While all the basins considered in this study were gauged, one of them was assumed to be ungauged (pseudo-ungauged) in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed methodology in ungauged basin simulation. The process was repeated by considering representative basins from different climatic and landuse scenarios as pseudo-ungauged. The results of the study indicated that the ensemble simulations in the ungauged basins were closely matching with the observed streamflow. The simulation efficiency varied between 57 and 61 % in ungauged basins. The regional function was able to generate the parameter characteristics that were closely matching with the original probability distribution derived from observed streamflow data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1131-1149
Number of pages19
JournalStochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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