Spatial scale effects on model parameter estimation and predictive uncertainty in ungauged basins

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The most appropriate scale to use for hydrological modelling depends on the model structure, the purpose of the results and the resolution of available data used to quantify parameter values and provide the climatic forcing. There is little consensus amongst the community of model users on the appropriate model complexity and number of model parameters that are needed for satisfactory simulations. These issues are not independent of modelling scale, the methods used to quantify parameter values, nor the purpose of use of the simulations. This paper reports on an investigation of spatial scale effects on the application of an approach to quantify the parameter values (with uncertainty) of a rainfall-runoff model with a relatively large number of parameters. The quantification approach uses estimation equations based on physical property data and is applicable to gauged and ungauged basins. Within South Africa the physical property data are available at a finer spatial resolution than is typically used for hydrological modelling. The results suggest that reducing the model spatial scale offers some advantages. Potential disadvantages are related to the need for some subjective interpretation of the available physical property data, as well as inconsistencies in some of the parameter estimation equations.

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