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Effects of uncertainties in hydrological modelling. A case study of a mountainous catchment in Southern Norway


In this study, we explore the effect of uncertainty and poor observation quality on hydrological model calibration and predictions. The Osali catchment in Western Norway was selected as case study and an elevation distributed HBV-model was used. We systematically evaluated the effect of accounting for uncertainty in parameters, precipitation input, temperature input and streamflow observations. For precipitation and temperature we accounted for the interpolation uncertainty, and for streamflow we accounted for rating curve uncertainty. Further, the effects of poorer quality of precipitation input and streamflow observations were explored. Less information about precipitation was obtained by excluding the nearest precipitation station from the analysis, while reduced information about the streamflow was obtained by omitting the highest and lowest streamflow observations when estimating the rating curve. The results showed that including uncertainty in the precipitation and temperature inputs has a negligible effect on the posterior distribution of parameters and for the Nash-Sutcliffe (NS) efficiency for the predicted flows, while the reliability and the continuous rank probability score (CRPS) improves. Less information in precipitation input resulted in a shift in the water balance parameter Pcorr, a model producing smoother streamflow predictions, giving poorer NS and CRPS, but higher reliability. The effect of calibrating the hydrological model using streamflow observations based on different rating curves is mainly seen as variability in the water balance parameter Pcorr. When evaluating predictions, the best evaluation scores were not achieved for the rating curve used for calibration, but for rating curves giving smoother streamflow observations. Less information in streamflow influenced the water balance parameter Pcorr, and increased the spread in evaluation scores by giving both better and worse scores. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.


Academic article




  • Kolbjørn Engeland
  • Ingelin Steinsland
  • Stig Johansen
  • Asgeir Petersen-Øverleir
  • Sjur Kolberg


  • Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Energy Research / Energisystemer
  • Statkraft



Published in

Journal of Hydrology








147 - 160

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