Tradeoffs between temporal and spatial pattern calibration and their impacts on robustness and transferability of hydrologic model parameters to ungauged basins
Optimization of spatially consistent parameter fields is believed to increase the robustness of parameter estimation and its transferability to ungauged basins. The current paper extends previous multi-objective and transferability studies by exploring the value of both multi-basin and spatial pattern calibration of distributed hydrologic models as compared to single-basin and single-objective model calibrations, with respect to tradeoffs, performance and transferability. The mesoscale Hydrological Model (mHM) is used across six large central European basins. Model simulations are evaluated against daily streamflow observations at the basin outlets and remotely sensed evapotranspiration patterns obtained with a two-source energy balance approach. Several model validation experiments are performed through combinations of single- (discharge) and multi-objective (discharge and spatial evapotranspiration patterns) calibrations with holdout experiments saving alternating basins for model evaluation. The study shows that there are very minimal tradeoffs between spatial and temporal performance objectives and that a joint calibration of multiple basins using multiple objective functions provides the most robust estimations of parameter fields that perform better when transferred to ungauged basins. The study indicates that particularly the multi-basin calibration approach is key for robust parametrizations, and that the addition of an objective function tailored for matching spatial patterns of ET fields alters the spatial parameter fields while significantly improving the spatial pattern performance without any tradeoffs with discharge performance. In light of model equifinality, the minimal tradeoff between spatial and temporal performance shows that adding spatial pattern evaluation to the traditional temporal evaluation of hydrological models can assist in identifying optimal parameter sets.