Title: Conceptual Model Uncertainty in Groundwater Modeling: Combining Generalized Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation and Bayesian Model Averaging
Citation: WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH vol. 44 p. W12418-1 W12418-16
Publication Year: 2008
JRC N°: JRC43338
ISSN: 0043-1397
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC43338
DOI: 10.1029/2008WR006908
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Uncertainty assessments in groundwater modeling applications typically attribute all sources of uncertainty to errors in parameters and inputs, neglecting what may be the primary source of uncertainty, namely, errors in the conceptualization of the system. Confining the set of plausible system representations to a single model leads to under-dispersive and prone to bias predictions. In this work we present a general and flexible approach that combines Generalized Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation (GLUE) and Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) to assess uncertainty in model predictions that arise from errors in model structure, inputs and parameters. In a prior analysis, a set of plausible models are selected and the joint prior input and parameter space is sampled to form potential simulators of the system. For each model the likelihood measures of acceptable simulators, assigned to them based on their ability to reproduce observed system behavior, are integrated over the joint input and parameter space to obtain the integrated model likelihood. The latter is used to weight the predictions of the respective model in the BMA ensemble predictions. For illustrative purposes we applied the methodology to a three-dimensional hypothetical setup. Results showed that predictions of groundwater budget terms varied considerably among competing models, although that a set of 16 head observations used for conditioning did not allow differentiating between the models. BMA provided consensus predictions that were more conservative. Conceptual model uncertainty contributed up to 30% of the total uncertainty. The results clearly indicate the need to consider alternative conceptualizations to account for model uncertainty.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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