PHD_THESIS_SHRESTHA.

PHD_THESIS_SHRESTHA.
UNCERTAINTY ANALYSIS
IN RAINFALL-RUNOFF MODELLING:
APPLICATION OF MACHINE LEARNING TECHNIQUES
Uncertainty Analysis in Rainfall-Runoff Modelling:
Application of Machine Learning Techniques
DISSERTATION
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of
the Board for Doctorates of Delft University of Technology and
of the Academic Board of UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water
Education for the Degree of DOCTOR
to be defended in public
on Monday, September 28, 2009, at 12:30 hours
in Delft, The Netherlands
by
Durga Lal SHRESTHA
born in Kathmandu, Nepal
Master of Science in Hydroinformatics with Distinction
UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands
This dissertation has been approved by the supervisors
Prof. dr. D.P. Solomatine
Prof. dr. R.K. Price
Members of the Awarding Committee:
Chairman
Rector Magnificus TU Delft, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. A. Mynett
Vice-Chairman, UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. D.P. Solomatine
TU Delft / UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands, Supervisor
Prof. dr. R.K. Price
TU Delft / UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands, Supervisor
Prof. dr. S. Uhlenbrook
VU Amsterdam / UNESCO-IHE, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. N. van de Giesen
TU Delft, the Netherlands
Prof. dr. A. Montanari
University of Bologna, Italy
Prof. dr. J. Hall
Newcastle University, UK
Prof. dr. H.H.G. Savenije
TU Delft, the Netherlands (reserve)
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© 2009, Durga Lal Shrestha
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To
My mother, wife Srijana and son Sujan
SUMMARY
Rainfall-runoff models are widely used in hydrology for a large range of applications
and play an important role in optimal planning and management of water resources in
river basins. A rainfall-runoff model is, by definition, a simplification of a complex,
non-linear, time and space varying hydrological process reality. Such models contain
parameters that cannot often be measured directly, but can only be estimated by
calibration against a historical record of measured output data. The system input data
and output are often contaminated by measurement errors. Consequently predictions
made by such a model are far from being perfect and inherently uncertain. It is vital,
therefore, that uncertainty should be recognized and properly accounted for. Once the
existence of uncertainty in a rainfall-runoff model is acknowledged, it should be
managed by a proper uncertainty analysis and by prediction procedures aimed at
reducing its impact. There are a number of such procedures actively used but our
analysis makes it possible to conclude that they are often based on strong assumptions
and suffer from certain deficiencies. This thesis is devoted to developing new
procedures for uncertainty analysis and prediction, and testing them on various case
studies.
This thesis investigates a number of methods proposed in the literature to provide
meaningful uncertainty bounds to the model predictions. Most of the existing methods
analyse the uncertainty of the uncertain input variables by propagating it through the
deterministic model to the outputs, and hence require the assumption of their
distributions and error structures. The majority of the uncertainty methods account for
only a single source of uncertainty and ignore other sources of uncertainty explicitly. No
single method of uncertainty estimation can be claimed as being perfect in representing
uncertainty. Our analysis concludes that the machine learning methods which are able to
build accurate models based on data (in this case, on the data about the past model
errors) have excellent potential for their use as uncertainty predictors.
Machine learning is concerned with the design and development of algorithms that
allow computers to improve their performance over time based on data. A major focus
of machine learning techniques is to produce models automatically from data through
experience. Over the last 15 years many machine learning techniques have been used to
build data-driven rainfall-runoff models. So far these techniques have not been used to
provide the uncertainty in the model prediction explicitly in the form of prediction
bounds or probability distribution function, particularly in rainfall-runoff modelling.
The aim of this research is to explore machine learning techniques to analyse, model
and predict uncertainty in rainfall-runoff modelling. We develop two methods, namely
the MLUE for parametric and the UNEEC method for residual uncertainty analysis of
rainfall-runoff models.
Monte Carlo (MC) simulation is a widely used method for uncertainty analysis in
rainfall-runoff modeling and allows the quantification of the model output uncertainty
resulting from uncertain model parameters. The MC based methods for uncertainty
viii
analysis are flexible, robust, conceptually simple and straightforward; however methods
of this type require a large number of samples (or model runs), and their applicability is
sometimes limited to simple models. In the case of computationally intensive models,
the time and resources required by these methods could be prohibitively expensive. A
number of methods have been developed to improve the efficiency of MC based
uncertainty analysis methods and still these methods require considerable number of
model runs in both offline and operational mode to produce a reliable and meaningful
uncertainty estimation. In this thesis we develop a method to predict parametric
uncertainty of rainfall-runoff model by building machine learning models that emulate
the MC uncertainty results. The proposed method is referred to as the MLUE (Machine
Learning in parameter Uncertainty Estimation). The motivation to develop MLUE
method is to perform fast parametric uncertainty analysis and prediction.
The MLUE method is applied to a lumped conceptual rainfall-runoff model for the
Brue catchment, UK. The generalised likelihood uncertainty estimation method (GLUE)
has been used to analyse the parameter uncertainty of the model. We apply the MLUE
method to estimate the uncertainty results generated by the GLUE method. We have
shown how domain knowledge and analytical techniques are used to select the input
data for the machine learning models used in the MLUE method. Three machine
learning models, namely artificial neural networks, model trees, and locally weighted
regression, are used to predict the uncertainty of the model predictions. The
performance of machine learning models in the MLUE method is measured by their
predictive capability (e.g., coefficient of correlation, and root mean squared error) and
the statistics of the uncertainty (e.g., the prediction intervals coverage probability, and
the mean prediction intervals). It is demonstrated that machine learning methods can
predict the uncertainty results with reasonable accuracy. The great advantage of the
MLUE method is its efficiency to reproduce the MC simulation results; it can thus be an
effective tool to assess the uncertainty of flood forecasting in real time.
Generally the analysis of uncertainty consists of propagating the uncertainty of the
input and parameters (which is measured by distribution function) through the model by
running it for a sufficient number of times and deriving the distribution function of the
model outputs. As a part of this research, we develop a novel methodology to analyse,
model, and predict the uncertainty of the optimal model output by analysing historical
model residuals errors. This method is referred to as UNcertainty Estimation based on
Local Errors and Clustering (UNEEC). The UNEEC method consists of the three main
steps: (i) clustering the input data in order to identify the homogenous regions of the
input space, (ii) estimating the probability distribution of the model residuals for the
regions identified by clustering, and (iii) building the machine learning models of the
probability distributions of the model errors. Fuzzy clustering has been used to cluster
the input data. Three machine learning models, namely artificial neural networks, model
trees, and locally weighted regression, are used to predict the uncertainty of the model
predictions.
The UNEEC method is applied to rainfall-runoff models of three contrasting
catchments: (i) data-driven models for the Sieve catchment, Italy; (ii) lumped
conceptual rainfall-runoff model for the Brue catchment, UK; and (iii) lumped
ix
conceptual rainfall-runoff model for the Bagmati catchment, Nepal. It has been
demonstrated that uncertainty bounds estimated by the UNEEC method are consistent
with the order of the magnitude of the model errors. The results show that the
percentage of the observed discharges falling within the estimated prediction or
uncertainty bounds is very close to the specified confidence level used to produce these
bounds with the reasonable width of the bounds. We compare the uncertainty of the
model predictions with other uncertainty estimation methods, namely GLUE and two
statistical methods - meta-Gaussian, and quantile regression. The comparison results
show that the UNEEC method generates consistently narrower uncertainty bounds.
In this research, we have also applied multiobjective optimisation routine NSGA-II
to calibrate the HBV rainfall-runoff model for the Bagmati catchment. Four objective
functions that emphasise different aspects of the runoff hydrographs are the volume
error, root mean squared error (RMSE), RMSE of low flows, and RMSE of peak flows.
We implement Pareto preference ordering to select a small number of solutions from the
four dimensional Pareto-optimal solutions. The preferred Pareto-optimal set is
compared with the optimal values of the parameter set for each of the single objective
functions. It is observed that the results of the preferred Pareto-optimal set is a good
compromise between all four objective functions and are within the best and worst
solutions from the single objective function optimisations. Multiobjective calibration
also allows the quantification of the uncertainty in a form of the range of the model
simulations corresponding to the Pareto-optimal sets of the parameter; and it provides
additional information necessary for risk based decision making.
This research has demonstrated that machine learning methods are able to build
reasonably accurate and efficient models for predicting uncertainty, particularly in
rainfall-runoff modelling. We conclude that the machine learning techniques can be a
valuable tool for uncertainty analysis of various predictive models. The research also
presents recommendations for future research and development for uncertainty analysis
in the field of rainfall-runoff modelling.
Durga Lal Shrestha
Delft, The Netherlands
Table of Contents
SUMMARY ..........................................................................................VII
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION ......................................................1
1.1
Background ....................................................................................................1
1.2
Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling ..........................................3
1.3
Machine learning in uncertainty analysis .......................................................5
1.4
Objective of this study....................................................................................6
1.5
Outline of the thesis........................................................................................7
CHAPTER 2
UNCERTAINTY ANALYSIS IN RAINFALLRUNOFF MODELLING ........................................................................9
2.1
Types of rainfall-runoff models......................................................................9
2.1.1
Data-driven models.............................................................................10
2.1.2
Conceptual models .............................................................................11
2.1.3
Physically based models.....................................................................11
2.1.4
Stochastic models ...............................................................................12
2.2
Notion of uncertainty....................................................................................12
2.3
Classification of uncertainty.........................................................................14
2.4
Sources of uncertainty in rainfall-runoff models ..........................................15
2.5
Sources of uncertainty in context of data-driven modelling .........................15
2.6
Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling ........................................17
2.7
Uncertainty representation............................................................................19
2.7.1
Probability theory ...............................................................................19
2.7.2
Fuzzy set theory..................................................................................23
2.7.3
Entropy theory ....................................................................................24
xii
2.8
Uncertainty analysis methods.......................................................................26
2.8.1
Analytical methods .............................................................................28
2.8.2
Approximation methods .....................................................................28
2.8.3
Simulation and sampling-based methods ...........................................29
2.8.4
Bayesian methods...............................................................................33
2.8.5
Methods based on the analysis of model errors ..................................36
2.8.6
Fuzzy set theory-based methods.........................................................38
CHAPTER 3
MACHINE LEARNING TECHNIQUES ..............41
3.1
Introduction ..................................................................................................41
3.2
Machine learning types.................................................................................42
3.3
Learning principle and notations ..................................................................43
3.4
Application of machine learning in rainfall-runoff modelling......................45
3.5
Artificial neural networks.............................................................................46
3.5.1
Learning in ANN................................................................................47
3.5.2
Multi-layer perceptron network..........................................................48
3.6
Model trees ...................................................................................................49
3.7
Instance based learning.................................................................................52
3.7.1
3.8
3.9
Locally weighted regression ...............................................................52
Clustering methods.......................................................................................54
3.8.1
K-means clustering .............................................................................54
3.8.2
Fuzzy C-means clustering ..................................................................55
3.8.3
Validity measures ...............................................................................57
Selection of input variables ..........................................................................58
xiii
CHAPTER 4
MACHINE LEARNING IN PREDICTION OF
PARAMETER UNCERTAINTY: MLUE METHOD .......................61
4.1
Introduction ..................................................................................................61
4.2
Monte Carlo techniques for parameter uncertainty analysis.........................62
4.3
Problems attached to Monte Carlo based uncertainty analysis methods ......64
4.4
Machine learning emulator in uncertainty analysis ......................................64
4.5
Methodology ................................................................................................65
4.5.1
Monte Carlo simulations ....................................................................66
4.5.2
Characterisation of uncertainty...........................................................67
4.5.3
Predictive model for emulating MC simulations ................................68
4.6
Selection of input variables ..........................................................................70
4.7
Validation of methodology...........................................................................71
4.8
Limitations of method ..................................................................................72
CHAPTER 5
APPLICATION OF MACHINE LEARNING
METHOD TO PREDICT PARAMETER UNCERTAINTY............75
5.1
Description of the Brue catchment ..............................................................75
5.2
Description of rainfall-runoff model ............................................................77
5.3
Experimental setup .......................................................................................80
5.4
MC simulations and convergence analysis...................................................82
5.5
Posterior distributions and sensitivity of parameters ....................................84
5.6 Machine learning techniques in emulating results of MC simulations .............88
5.7
5.6.1
Selection of input variables ................................................................89
5.6.2
Modelling prediction intervals............................................................91
5.6.3
Modelling median and standard deviation..........................................98
5.6.4
Modelling probability distribution function .......................................99
Conclusions ................................................................................................101
xiv
CHAPTER 6
MACHINE LEARNING IN PREDICTION OF
RESIDUAL UNCERTAINTY: UNEEC METHOD ........................103
6.1
Introduction ................................................................................................103
6.2
Definition and sources of model errors ......................................................105
6.3
Methodology ..............................................................................................107
6.3.1
Clustering input data.........................................................................108
6.3.2
Estimating probability distribution of model errors..........................109
6.3.3
Building model for probability distribution of model errors ............111
6.4
Computation of predictive uncertainty of model output.............................114
6.5
Selection of input variables ........................................................................115
6.6
Validation of UNEEC method....................................................................115
6.7
Limitations and possible extensions of method..........................................116
CHAPTER 7
APPLICATION OF MACHINE LEARNING
METHOD TO PREDICT RESIDUAL UNCERTAINTY...............119
7.1
7.2
7.3
Application 1: Synthetic data set ................................................................119
7.1.1
Linear regression model of synthetic data set...................................120
7.1.2
Prediction interval for linear regression............................................120
7.1.3
Experimental setup ...........................................................................122
7.1.4
Results and discussions ....................................................................123
7.1.5
Conclusions ......................................................................................123
Application 2: Sieve River catchment ........................................................125
7.2.1
Flow forecasting model of the Sieve River catchment .....................125
7.2.2
Experimental setup ...........................................................................127
7.2.3
Results and discussions ....................................................................128
7.2.4
Uncertainty estimation......................................................................130
7.2.5
Conclusions ......................................................................................133
Application 3: Brue catchment ...................................................................134
7.3.1
Analysis of simulation results...........................................................134
xv
7.4
7.5
7.6
7.3.2
Selection of input variables ..............................................................135
7.3.3
Clustering .........................................................................................135
7.3.4
Uncertainty results and discussions ..................................................138
7.3.5
Comparison of uncertainty results ....................................................139
7.3.6
Conclusions ......................................................................................141
Application 4: Bagmati catchment .............................................................143
7.4.1
Description of case study..................................................................143
7.4.2
Calibration of model parameters ......................................................144
7.4.3
Analysis of model residuals..............................................................146
7.4.4
Clustering .........................................................................................146
7.4.5
Selection of input variables for uncertainty model ...........................150
7.4.6
Comparison of uncertainty results ....................................................155
7.4.7
Estimation of probability distribution of model errors.....................156
7.4.8
Conclusions ......................................................................................158
Multiobjective calibration and uncertainty .................................................159
7.5.1
Preference ordering of the Pareto-optimal points .............................160
7.5.2
Results and discussions ....................................................................161
7.5.3
Uncertainty assessment.....................................................................166
Conclusions ................................................................................................168
CHAPTER 8
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS .....
..................................................................................169
8.1
Rainfall-runoff modelling and uncertainty analysis ...................................169
8.2
Uncertainty analysis methods.....................................................................170
8.3
Machine learning methods for uncertainty analysis ...................................170
8.3.1
A method for parameter uncertainty analysis ...................................171
8.3.2
A method for residual uncertainty analysis ......................................172
8.4
Multiobjective calibration and uncertainty .................................................174
8.5
Summary of conclusions ............................................................................174
xvi
8.6
Recommendations ......................................................................................175
ABBREVIATIONS..............................................................................177
NOTATIONS .......................................................................................179
REFERENCES ....................................................................................181
SAMENVATTING ..............................................................................197
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ..................................................................201
ABOUT THE AUTHOR .....................................................................203
Chapter 1
Introduction
This chapter introduces the subject of this research - uncertainty analysis in
rainfall-runoff modelling by applying machine learning. It starts with the
background of rainfall-runoff modelling and the treatment of uncertainty analysis
within the context of rainfall-runoff modelling. A brief review of uncertainty
analysis methods and their shortcomings is also presented. Finally the objectives
and the structure of the thesis are presented.
1.1
Background
Rainfall-runoff models are increasingly used in hydrology for a wide range of
applications, for example, to extend streamflow records, in the design and operation of
hydraulic structures, for real time flood forecasting, to estimate flows of ungauged
catchments, and to predict the effect of land-use and climate change. Such models play
an important role in water resource planning and management of river basins. These
models attempt to simulate complex hydrological processes that lead to the
transformation of rainfall into runoff, with varying degrees of abstraction.
A plethora of rainfall-runoff models, varying in nature, complexity, and purpose, has
been developed and used by researchers and practitioners in the last century. These
rainfall-runoff models encompass a broad spectrum of more or less plausible
descriptions of rainfall-runoff relations and processes ranging from the primitive
empirical black box model such as the Sherman unit hydrograph method (see, e.g.
Sherman, 1932) to the lumped conceptual models such as the Stanford (Crawford and
Linsley, 1966), Sacramento (Burnash et al., 1973), HBV (Bergström and Forsman,
1973) models, and the physically based distributed models such as the Mike-SHE model
(Abbott et al., 1986a, b). Rapid growth in computational power, the increased
availability of distributed hydrological observations and an improved understanding of
the physics and dynamics of water systems permit more complex and sophisticated
models to be built. While these advances in principle lead to more accurate (less
uncertain) models, at the same time, if such complex models with many parameters and
data inputs are not parameterized properly or lack input data of reasonable quality, they
could be an inaccurate representation of reality.
2 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Since by definition, a rainfall-runoff model is only an abstraction of a complex, nonlinear, time and space varying hydrological process of reality, there are many
simplifications and idealisations. These models contain parameters that cannot often be
measured directly, but can only be estimated by calibration with a historical record of
measured output data. The system input (forcing) data such as rainfall, temperature, etc.
and output are often contaminated by measurement errors. This inevitably leads to
uncertain parameter estimates. Consequently predictions made by such rainfall-runoff
model are far from being perfect, in other words, there always exists a discrepancy
between the model prediction and the corresponding observed data, no matter how
precise the model is and how perfectly the model is calibrated. Thus the model errors
which are the mismatch between the observed and the simulated system behaviour are
unavoidable in rainfall-runoff modeling due to the inherent uncertainties in the process.
Various sources of uncertainty in rainfall-runoff modeling are presented in sections 2.4
and 2.5.
In many fields uncertainty is well recognized and accounted for properly. For
example in meteorological sciences, the deterministic weather forecasts or predictions
are typically given together with the associated uncertainty. Uncertainty has been also
treated in the assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC
(Swart et al., 2009). In engineering design such as coastal and river flood defenses
uncertainty is treated implicitly through conservative design rules, or explicitly by a
probabilistic characterization of meteorological events leading to extreme floods.
Historically the problem of accurately determining river flows from rainfall,
evaporation and other factors was a major focus in hydrology. During the last two
decades, there has been a great deal of research into the development and application of
(auto) calibration methods (see, e.g., Duan et al., 1992; Solomatine et al., 1999) to
improve the deterministic model predictions. Almost all existing river flow simulation
techniques are conceived to provide a single estimate, since most research in operational
hydrology has been dedicated to finding the best estimate rather than quantifying the
uncertainty of model predictions (Singh and Woolhiser, 2002).
It is now being broadly recognized that proper consideration of uncertainty in
hydrologic predictions is essential for purposes of both research and operational
modeling (Wagener and Gupta, 2005). Along with the recognition of the uncertainty of
physical processes, the uncertainty analysis of rainfall-runoff models has become a
popular research topic over the past two decades. The value of a hydrologic prediction
to water resources and other relevant decision-making processes is limited if reasonable
estimates of the corresponding predictive uncertainty are not provided (Georgakakos et
al., 2004). Explicit recognition of uncertainty is not enough; in order to have this notion
adopted by decision makers in water resources management, uncertainty should be
properly estimated and communicated (Pappenberger and Beven, 2006). The research
community, however, has done quite a lot in moving towards the recognition of the
necessity of complementing point forecasts of decision variables by the uncertainty
estimates. Hence, there is a widening recognition of the necessity to (i) understand and
identify of the sources of uncertainty; (ii) quantify uncertainty; (iii) evaluate the
propagation of uncertainty through the models; and (iv) find means to reduce
Chapter 1. Introduction
3
uncertainty. Incorporating uncertainty into deterministic predictions or forecasts helps to
enhance the reliability and credibility of the model outputs.
This dissertation is devoted to developing new methods to analyse model
uncertainty, which are based on the methods of machine learning. This study is, in
general, in the field of Hydroinformatics, the area that aims in particular at introducing
methods of machine learning and computational intelligence into the practice of
modelling and forecasting (Abbott, 1991). This study is at the interface between
different scientific disciplines: hydrological modelling, statistical and machine learning,
and uncertainty analysis.
1.2
Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
One may observe a significant proliferation of uncertainty analysis methods published
in the academic literature, trying to provide meaningful uncertainty bounds of the model
predictions. Pappenberger et al. (2006) provide a decision tree to find the appropriate
method for a given situation. However, methods to estimate and propagate this
uncertainty have so far been limited in their ability to distinguish between different
sources of uncertainty and in the use of the retrieved information to improve the model
structure analysed. In general, these methods can be broadly classified into six
categories (see, e.g., Montanari, 2007; Shrestha and Solomatine, 2008):
1. Analytical methods (see, e.g., Tung, 1996);
2. Approximation methods, e.g., first-order second moment method (Melching,
1992);
3. Simulation and sampling-based (Monte Carlo) methods (see, e.g., Kuczera and
Parent, 1998);
4. Methods from group (3) which are also generally attributed to Bayesian
methods, e.g., ‘‘generalised likelihood uncertainty estimation’’ (GLUE) by
Beven and Binley (1992);
5. Methods based on the analysis of model errors (see, e.g., Montanari and Brath,
2004); and
6. Methods based on fuzzy set theory (see, e.g., Maskey et al., 2004).
Detailed descriptions of these methods are given in section 2.8.
Most of the existing methods (e.g., categories (3) and (4)) analyse the uncertainty of
the uncertain input variables by propagating it through the deterministic model to the
outputs, and hence require the assumption of their distributions and error structures.
Most of the approaches based on the analysis of the model errors require certain
assumptions regarding the residuals (e.g., normality and homoscedasticity). Obviously,
the relevance and accuracy of such approaches depend on the validity of these
assumptions. The fuzzy theory-based approach requires knowledge of the membership
4 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
function of the quantity subject to the uncertainty which could be very subjective.
Furthermore, in majority of the methods, uncertainty of the model output is mainly
attributed to uncertainty in the model parameters. For instance, Monte Carlo (MC)
based methods analyse the propagation of uncertainty of parameters (measured by the
probability density function, pdf) to the pdf of the output. Similar types of analysis are
performed for the input or structural uncertainty independently. Methods based on the
analysis of the model errors typically compute the uncertainty of the “optimal model”
(i.e. the model with the calibrated parameters and the fixed structure), and not of the
“class of models” (i.e. a group of models with the same structure but parameterised
differently) as, for example, MC methods do.
The contribution of various sources of errors to the total model error is typically not
known and, as pointed out by Gupta et al. (2005), disaggregation of errors into their
source components is often difficult, particularly in hydrology where models are nonlinear and different sources of errors may interact to produce the measured deviation.
Nevertheless, evaluating the contribution of different sources of uncertainty to the
overall uncertainties in model prediction is important, for instance, for understanding
where the greatest sources of uncertainties reside, and, therefore directing efforts
towards these sources (Brown and Heuvelink, 2005). In general, relatively few studies
have been conducted to investigate the interaction between different sources of
uncertainty and their contributions to the total model uncertainty (Engeland et al., 2005;
Gupta et al., 2005). For the risk based decision-making process such as flood warnings,
it is more important to know the total model uncertainty accounting for all sources of
uncertainty than the uncertainty resulting from individual sources.
However, the practice of uncertainty analysis and use of the results of such analysis
in decision making is not widespread, for several reasons (Pappenberger and Beven,
2006). Uncertainty analysis takes time, so adds to the cost of risk analysis, options
appraisal and design studies. It is not always clear how uncertainty analysis will
contribute to improved decision making. Much of the academic literature on
hydrological uncertainties (Liu and Gupta, 2007) has tended to focus upon forecasting
problems. Identifying uncertainty bounds on a flood forecast is important, but to be
meaningful needs to be set within the context of a well defined decision problem
(Frieser et al., 2005; Todini, 2008). The uncertainty analysis requires careful
interpretation in order to understand the meaning and significance of the results. It is
through this process of scrutiny and discussion that the most useful insights for decision
makers are obtained. Furthermore, the conduct of uncertainty analysis provides new
insights into model behaviour that will need to be discussed and agreed with the experts
responsible for models that are input into the analysis. Indeed the process of scrutiny
that uncertainty analysis provides is an additional benefit (Hall and Solomatine, 2008).
Experience is now growing in the communication of uncertainty to decision makers
and members of the public, for example in the context of environmental risks (Sluijs et
al., 2003) and climate change (IPCC, 2005). Sluijs et al. (2003) stress the importance of
engaging stakeholders from this early stage, identifying the target audiences and then
using appropriate language to communicate uncertainties. Alongside numerical results
Chapter 1. Introduction
5
and their implications for decision makers, the limitations of data sources and analysis
methods should be made clear and areas of ignorance should be highlighted.
1.3
Machine learning in uncertainty analysis
Over the last 15 years many machine learning techniques have been used extensively in
the field of rainfall-runoff modelling (see section 3.4 for more detail). These techniques
have been also used to improve the accuracy of prediction/forecasting made by process
based rainfall-runoff models. Generally, they are used to update the output variables by
forecasting the error of the process based models. All these techniques to update the
model predictions can be seen as error modelling paradigm to reduce the uncertainty of
the predictions. However, these techniques do not provide explicitly the uncertainty of
the model prediction in the form of prediction bounds or probability distribution
function of the model output.
In this thesis we explore the possibility of using machine learning techniques which
can provide the reasonable uncertainty estimation for the runoff prediction made by
rainfall-runoff models.
As mentioned above in section 1.1, with advances in computational power and
technological development, more complex and sophisticated distributed rainfall-runoff
models have been built and used in practice. Computational burden in distributed runoff
models is now less problematic than before, although it still can be an issue when
predictive uncertainty of a model is assessed through laborious MC simulations (Beven,
2001). Several uncertainty analysis methods based on MC simulations have been
developed to propagate the uncertainty through the models. The MC based method for
uncertainty analysis of the outputs of such models is straightforward, but becomes
impractical in real time applications for computationally intensive complex models
when there is insufficient time to perform the uncertainty analysis because the large
number of model runs is required. Practical implementation of MC based uncertainty
analysis methods face two major problems: (i) convergence of the MC simulations is
very slow (with the order of computational complexity (O) of 1/ s ), so a large number
of runs needed to establish a reliable estimate of uncertainties; and (ii) the number of
simulations increases exponentially with the dimension of the parameter vector (O(np))
to cover the entire parameter domain, where s is the number of simulations, p is the
dimension of parameter vector, n is the number of samples required for each parameter.
A number of research have been conducted to improve the efficiency of MC based
uncertainty analysis methods such as Latin hypercube sampling (McKay et al., 1979),
and the moment propagation techniques (Rosenblueth, 1975; Harr, 1989; Melching,
1992). However all these methods require running the model many times in both offline
and online mode. In other words, MC based methods require running the models in a
loop each time when the uncertainty of the model prediction for the new input data x(T+1)
is required. In this thesis we explore an efficient method to assess the uncertainty of the
model M for t = T+1 when new input data x(T+1) is feed. The method we propose
6 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
encapsulates the MC based uncertainty results in machine learning models and is
referred to as a “Machine Learning in parameter Uncertainty Estimation” (MLUE). In
the MLUE method, the machine learning model is used as a surrogate model to emulate
the laborious MC based uncertainty methods and hence provides an approximate
solution to the uncertainty analysis in a real time application without re-running the MC
runs. Surrogate modelling is the process of constructing approximation models
(emulators) that mimic the behavior of the simulation model as closely as possible while
being computationally cheap(er) to run. We believe that it is preferable to have an
approximate uncertainty estimate than no uncertainty estimate at all.
Yet another problem relates to the situation when an interest is in assessing model
uncertainty when it is difficult to attribute it to any particular source. If the data and
resources are available and the computational time allows to do a full MC based
uncertainty analysis method, then it is preferable to perform the latter. However in
practice, engineering decisions are often based on a single (optimal) model run without
any uncertainty analysis. In this thesis we also develop a novel method for uncertainty
analysis of a calibrated model based on the historical model residuals. The historical
model residuals (errors) between the model prediction and the observed data are the best
available quantitative indicators of the discrepancy between the model and the realworld system or process, and they provide valuable information that can be used to
assess the predictive uncertainty. The residuals and their distribution are often functions
of the model input variables and can be predicted by building a separate model mapping
of the input space to the model residuals or even their probability distribution function.
In other words, the idea here is to learn the relationship between the probability
distribution of the model residuals and the input variables; and to use this relationship to
predict the uncertainty of the model prediction of the output variable (e.g., runoff) in the
future. This approach is referred to as an ‘‘UNcertainty Estimation based on local
Errors and Clustering’’ (UNEEC). The UNEEC method estimates the uncertainty of the
optimal model that takes into account all sources of errors without attempting to
disaggregate the contribution given by their individual sources. The UNEEC method is
based on the concept of optimality instead of equifinality as it analyzes the historical
model residuals resulting from the optimal model (both in structure and parameters).
1.4
Objective of this study
The aim of this research is to develop methodology for uncertainty analysis in rainfallrunoff modelling using machine learning techniques. The objectives of the research are:
1. To review the existing methods of uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff
modelling;
2. To review machine learning methods and to investigate the possibility of
applying machine learning methods in uncertainty analysis;
3. To develop a methodology for uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modeling
using machine learning methods;
Chapter 1. Introduction
4.
7
To develop a methodology for the surrogate modeling of uncertainty generated
by the Monte Carlo based uncertainty methods; and
5. To implement the developed methodologies in computer codes and to test the
methodologies by application to real-world problems.
1.5
Outline of the thesis
The thesis is organised in eight chapters. A brief overview of the structure is given
below. Chapter 2 is devoted to a review of uncertainty analysis especially in rainfallrunoff modelling. It starts with brief overviews of rainfall-runoff models and their
classification which is followed by the sources of uncertainty in the context of rainfallrunoff modelling. It also discusses the commonly used uncertainty representation
theories of probability, fuzzy logic and entropy. It briefly reviews the various
uncertainty analysis methods used in rainfall-runoff modelling.
Chapter 3 presents several machine learning techniques used in this study. It
describes artificial neural networks, model trees, instance based learning and clustering
techniques.
In Chapter 4, a novel method “Machine Learning in parameter Uncertainty
Estimation” (MLUE) to modelling parametric uncertainty of rainfall-runoff models is
presented. It is observed that there exists a dependency between the forcing input data,
the state variables of rainfall-runoff models and the uncertainty of the model
predictions. Chapter 4 explores building machine learning models to approximate the
functional relationship between the input data (including state variables if any) and the
uncertainty of the model prediction such as a quantile.
Chapter 5 presents the application of the MLUE method for parametric uncertainty
representation and analysis. Various machine learning models such as artificial neural
networks, model trees, locally weighted regression, have been used. The MLUE method
is applied to analyse the uncertainty of a lumped conceptual rainfall-runoff model of the
Brue catchment in the UK.
Chapter 6 presents a novel method “Uncertainty Estimation based on Local Error
and Clustering” (UNEEC) for uncertainty analysis of rainfall-runoff models. This
method assumes that the model residuals or errors are indicators of the total model
uncertainty. The method estimates the “residual uncertainty” of the optimal model that
takes into account all sources of errors without attempting to disaggregate the
contribution given by their individual sources.
Chapter 7 provides the application of the UNEEC methodology to estimate
uncertainty of rainfall-runoff models in a number of catchments. In the first part the
UNEEC method is applied to estimate uncertainty of the forecasts made by several
machine learning methods in the Sieve catchment in Italy. The second part covers the
application to estimate uncertainty of the conceptual rainfall-runoff models of two
8 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
catchments: the Brue in UK and the Bagmati in Nepal. The comparison results with
other uncertainty methods are presented as well.
Chapter 8 presents the conclusions of the research based on the various case studies
presented in this thesis. Finally the possible directions for further research are
suggested.
Chapter 2
Uncertainty Analysis in
Rainfall-Runoff Modelling
This chapter presents the three classes of rainfall-runoff models: data-driven,
conceptual and physically-based. Classification and sources of uncertainty in the
context of rainfall-runoff modelling are described. Sources of uncertainty in
data-driven modelling are also presented. The chapter also discusses the
commonly used uncertainty representation theories of probability, fuzzy logic
and entropy. Brief reviews of the uncertainty analysis methods used in rainfallrunoff modelling are given.
2.1
Types of rainfall-runoff models
Many attempts have been made to classify rainfall-runoff models, see, e.g., Clarke
(1973), Todini (1988), Chow et al. (1988), Singh (1995b), Refsgaard (1996). The
classifications are generally based on the following criteria: (i) the extent of physical
principles that are applied in the model structure; (ii) the treatment of the model inputs
and parameters as a function of space and time. According to the first criterion (i.e.,
physical process description), a rainfall-runoff model can be attributed to two
categories: deterministic and stochastic (see Figure 2.1). A deterministic model does not
consider randomness; a given input always produces the same output. A stochastic
model has outputs that are at least partially random.
Deterministic models can be classified according to whether the model gives a
lumped or distributed description of the considered sub catchment area (i.e., second
criterion) and whether the description of the hydrological processes is empirical,
conceptual or more physically based (Refsgaard, 1996). On this basis deterministic
rainfall-runoff models are classified as: (i) data-driven models (black box), (ii)
conceptual models (grey box); and (iii) physically based models (white box).
Subsections 2.1.1-2.1.3 present these three types of rainfall-runoff models.
10 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 2.1. Classification of rainfall-runoff models according to physical processes (adapted from
Refsgaard, 1996).
2.1.1
Data-driven models
Data-driven (also called metric, or empirical, or black box) models involve
mathematical equations that have been derived not from the physical processes in the
catchments but from an analysis of the concurrent input and output time series.
Typically such models are valid only within the boundaries of the domain where data is
given (Price, 2002). Black box models may be divided into three main groups according
to their origin, namely empirical hydrological methods, statistically based methods and
newly developed Hydroinformatics based methods.
Unit hydrograph methods originally introduced by Sherman (1932) are widely used
examples of empirical methods. Although the derivation of these types of methods is
purely empirical, the selection of the input-output parameters is by and large, dictated
by some physical understanding of the processes.
Statistically based methods consist of regression and correlation models. Linear
regression and correlation techniques are standard statistical methods used to determine
the functional relationship between input and output. The autoregressive integrated
moving average (ARIMA) model (Box and Jenkins, 1970) is an extensively used
method in rainfall-runoff modelling and is often attributed to stochastic model.
Hydroinformatics based methods also simply called data-driven models are
relatively new methods which are generally based on machine learning techniques (see
Chapter 3). Examples of such methods are artificial neural networks, fuzzy regression
(Bardossy et al., 1990), model trees (Quinlan, 1992), genetic programming, support
vector machines (Vapnik, 1995, 1998), instance based learning. Over the past ten years
these techniques have been used extensively in rainfall-runoff modelling (see, e.g.,
Minns and Hall, 1996; Abrahart and See, 2000; Govindaraju and Rao, 2000; Solomatine
and Dulal, 2003; Solomatine et al., 2008). Data-driven techniques are presented in
Chapter 3.
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
2.1.2
11
Conceptual models
Conceptual models are generally composed of a number of interconnected storages
representing physical elements in a catchment. These storages are recharged through
fluxes of rainfall, infiltration or percolation and depleted through evapotranspiration,
runoff etc. assembling the real physical process in the catchment. Parameters and fluxes
typically represent the average values over the entire catchment. The equations used to
describe the process are semi-empirical, but still with a physical basis. The model
parameters cannot usually be assessed from field data alone, but have to be obtained
through the help of calibration. Although the conceptual models are simple and can be
easily implemented in the computer code, they need sufficiently long meteorological
and hydrological records for their calibration which may not be always available. The
calibration of the conceptual models involves curve fitting, thus making physical
interpretation of the fitted parameter very difficult and predicting effects of land use
change by changing parameter values cannot therefore be done with confidence (Abbott
et al., 1986a).
There are many conceptual models with different levels of physical representational
and varying degree of complexity. Crawford and Linsley (1966) are credited for the
development of the first major conceptual model by introducing the well known
Stanford Watershed Model IV. Numerous other widely used conceptual models include
Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting model (Burnash et al., 1973), NAM model
(Nielsen and Hansen, 1973), TOPMODEL (Beven and Kirkby, 1979), TANK model
(Sugawara, 1967, 1995), HBV model (Bergström and Forsman, 1973) and so on. A
brief description of several conceptual models is given in an early work by Fleming
(1975). Comparison results of 10 different conceptual models used in the sixties for
operational hydrological forecasting are presented in WMO (1975). More
comprehensive descriptions of a large number of conceptual models are provided in
Singh (1995a).
2.1.3
Physically based models
Physically based model are based on the general principles of physical processes (e.g.
continuity, momentum and/or energy conservation) and describe the system behaviour
in as much detail as conceivable. The state and evolution of the system is described
using state variables that are functions of both space and time. These variables bear
physical meaning and most of them are measurable. In such models, the hydrological
processes of water movement are modelled by finite difference representations of the
partial differential equations of mass, momentum and energy conservation, or by
empirical equations derived from independent experimental research (Abbott et al.,
1986b).
Although physically based models do not in principle require lengthy
hydrometeorological data for their calibration, they do require the evaluation of a large
number of parameters describing the physical characteristics of the catchment on a
spatially distributed basis (Abbott et al., 1986a) and huge amounts of data about the
12 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
initial state of the model (e.g. initial water depth, soil moisture content and depth to the
aquifer water table at all points of a catchment) and the description of the morphology
(topography, topology and dimensions of the river network, geometry of the geological
layers, etc.) of the system to be modeled. Most of the time, however, such data are not
available. Furthermore, physically based models suffer from scale related problems
(e.g., most measurements being made at the point scale, whereas model parameters are
required at the scale of the grid network used in the mathematical representation of the
catchment) and over-parameterisation (Beven, 1989). Such models are complex and
their development requires considerable resources in human expertise and computing
capability. However, physically based models can overcome many of the deficiencies
mentioned in section 2.1.2 through their use of parameters which have a physical
interpretation and through their representation of spatial variability in the parameter
values (Abbott et al., 1986a). The principles used in such models are assumed to be
valid for a wide range of situations including those that have not yet been observed
(Guinot and Gourbesville, 2003). Physically based models can also generate a large
amount of information on what happens away from the boundaries (where data is
prescribed as input or output) (Price, 2006). A typical example of a physically based
hydrological modelling system is the SHE/ MIKE SHE system (Abbott et al., 1986a, b).
2.1.4 Stochastic models
If any of the input-output variables or error terms of the model are regarded as random
variables having probability distribution, then the model is stochastic. This definition is
in accord with Chow (1964): “if the chance of occurrence of the variables is taken into
consideration and the concept of probability is introduced in formulating the model, the
process and the model are described as stochastic or probabilistic.”
An example of a stochastic model is Markov model for streamflow of order one as
given by (see, Fleming, 1975):
Yi = μ + ρ (Yi −1 − μ ) + Riσ 1 − ρ 2
(2.1)
where Yi is the streamflow in period i, μ is the mean of data, ρ is the lag-one serial
correlation, σ is the standard deviation of the streamflow, and R is a independent and
identically distributed random variable with zero mean and standard deviation 1.
ARIMA (Box and Jenkins, 1970) is another example of stochastic model. Examples of
other stochastic models can be found in Clarke (1973).
2.2
Notion of uncertainty
It is difficult to find in literature a precise and generally applicable definition of the term
uncertainty. It seems that there is no consensus within the profession about the very
term of uncertainty, which is conceived with differing degree of generality
(Kundzewicz, 1995). The meanings of the word uncertain as given by Webster’s (1998)
dictionary are the following: not surely or certainly known, questionable, not sure or
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
13
certain in knowledge, doubtful, not definite or determined, vague, liable to vary or
change, not steady or constant, varying. The noun “uncertainty” results from the above
concepts and can be summarized as the state of being uncertain.
Uncertainty can be defined with respect to certainty. For example, Zimmermann
(1997) defined certainty as: “certainty implies that a person has quantitatively and
qualitatively the appropriate information to describe, prescribe or predict
deterministically and numerically a system, its behaviour or other phenomena.”
Situations that are not described by the above definition shall be called uncertain.
Similar definition given by Gouldby and Samuels (2005): “a general concept that
reflects our lack of sureness about someone or something, ranging from just short of
complete sureness to an almost complete lack of conviction about an outcome”.
Figure 2.2. Certainty and uncertainty in the information world (source: Ross, 1995).
Ross (1995) illustrated in a diagram (Figure 2.2) that the presence of uncertainty in a
typical problem is much larger compared to the presence of certainty. The collection of
all information in this context is termed as the information world (represented by the
circle in Figure 2.2). If the uncertainty is considered in the content of this information,
only a small portion of a typical problem might be regarded as certain. The rest
inevitably contains uncertainty that rises from the complexity of the system, from
ignorance, from chance, from various classes of randomness, from imprecision, from
lack of knowledge, from vagueness, and so forth.
Regarding the occurrence of uncertainty, Klir and Wierman (1998) stated:
When dealing with real-world problems, we can rarely avoid uncertainty. At the
empirical level, uncertainty is an inseparable companion of almost any
measurement, resulting from a combination of inevitable measurement errors and
resolution limits of measuring instruments. At the cognitive level, it emerges from
the vagueness and ambiguity inherent in natural language. At the social level,
uncertainty has even strategic uses and it is often created and maintained by people
for different purposes (privacy, secrecy, propriety).
14 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
In the context of the present research work, uncertainty is defined as a state that
reflects our lack of sureness about the outcome of physical processes or system of
interest and gives rise to a potential difference between assessment of the outcome and
its “true” value. More precisely, uncertainty of a model output (for example, water level
at the bridge) is the state or condition that the output can not be assessed uniquely.
Uncertainty stems from incompleteness or imperfect knowledge or information
concerning the process or system in addition to the random nature of the occurrence of
the events. Uncertainty resulting from insufficient information may be reduced if more
information is available.
The following sections attempt to describe uncertainty and distinguish sources of
uncertainty and types of uncertainty in general and in the context of rainfall-runoff
modelling. Different theories of uncertainty representation and modelling are described
in sections 2.7 and 2.8.
2.3
Classification of uncertainty
There were numerous attempts in the literatures to classify and distinguish different
types of uncertainty. Yen and Ang (1971) classified uncertainties into two types:
objective uncertainties associated with any random process or deductible from statistical
samples and subjective uncertainties for which no quantitative factual information is
available. Burges and Lettenmaier (1975) categorized two types of uncertainties: type I
error results from the use of an inadequate model with correct parameter values, and
type II error assumes the use of a perfect model with parameter subject to uncertainty.
Klir and Folger (1988) classified uncertainty into two types: ambiguity and
vagueness. Ambiguity is the possibility of having multiple outcomes for processes or
systems, and vagueness is the non-crispness of belonging and non-belonging of
elements to a set of or a notion of interest. This classification is consistent with the
classification given by Ayyub and Chao (1998).
Kaufmann and Gupta (1991)classified uncertainty as random and fuzzy. Following
this, Davis and Blockey (1996) identified three distinct components of uncertainty:
fuzziness, incompleteness and randomness. In the context of modelling engineering
system, Van Gelder, (2000) and Hall (2003) classified uncertainty into inherent and
epistemic. The inherent or aleatory uncertainty represents the randomness and
variability observed in nature (both in space and time), whereas epistemic or knowledge
uncertainty refers to the state of knowledge of a physical system and our ability to
measure and model. Abebe (2004) classified uncertainty into structured and
unstructured based on the characteristics of the gap between the model and the physical
system as it is revealed in the form of errors. A comprehensive review of the
classification of uncertainty can be found in Hall (1999).
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
2.4
15
Sources of uncertainty in rainfall-runoff models
The uncertainties in rainfall-runoff modelling stem mainly from the three important
sources (see, e.g., Melching, 1995; Refsgaard and Storm, 1996):
Observational uncertainty: Uncertainty related to the observation used for rainfallrunoff modelling can be classified as observational uncertainty. The observation is the
measurement of the input (e.g., precipitation and temperature) and output (e.g.,
streamflow) fluxes of the hydrological systems and sometimes of its states (e.g., soil
moisture content, groundwater levels). The observational or data uncertainty usually
consists of two components: a) measurement errors due to both instrumental and human
errors b) error due to inadequate representativeness of a data sample due to scale
incompatibility or difference in time and space between the variable measured by the
instrument and the corresponding model variable. The latter is sometimes called
sampling uncertainty (see, e.g., Abebe, 2004). These two error components have very
different characteristics which may vary from variable to variable; hence, statistics of
both errors should be considered and adequately specified.
Model uncertainty: A model is a simplified representation of the real world (Refsgaard,
1996). The complex real processes are greatly simplified while deriving the basic
concepts and equations of the model. Conceptualisation with inappropriate
approximations and ignored or misrepresented processes can result in large error in the
conceptual structure of the model. Model errors can also arise from the mathematical
implementation (e.g., spatial and temporal discretisations) that transforms a conceptual
model into a numerical model.
Parameter uncertainty: The uncertainty in the model parameters results from an
inability to accurately quantify the input parameters of a model. The parameters of the
model may not have direct physical meaning. Furthermore, those parameters that have a
physical meaning can not be directly measured or it is too costly to measure them in the
field. In such case their values are generally estimated by indirect means (e.g., expert
judgment, model calibration etc). Expert judgment is normally subjective and hence
uncertain. The parameters obtained from the calibration process are also not free from
uncertainty for various reasons including data uncertainty (data used to calibrate the
model contains errors), model uncertainty (the model structure used to calibrate the
model is not adequate), lack of sufficient data etc.
2.5
Sources of uncertainty in context of data-driven modelling
In section 2.4, we discussed the source of uncertainty in physically based rainfall-runoff
models. The sources of uncertainty in data-driven rainfall-runoff modeling are presented
in this section. The model predictions from data-driven techniques are uncertain due to
the following sources:
16 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Inaccuracies in the training data (data uncertainty): The training data set is typically
noisy due to systematic and random errors. Furthermore, it is incomplete because all the
possible input-output examples are not available. Indeed the training data is only a
random sample of an unknown distribution from population. Noise is inherent to all real
data and contributes to the total prediction variance as data noise variance σ v2 .
Limitation of the regression model (model uncertainty): The limitations of the model
(i.e., capacity) due to the training algorithm introduce uncertainty to the predictions. For
example, fitting the non-linear relationship between variables by linear regression
introduces uncertainty in the predictions. Similarly, most of the data-driven techniques
are trained using an iterative optimisation algorithm. The resultant coefficients or
parameter values of the model often correspond to a local rather than global optimum of
the error function. Such types of uncertainties are often called model uncertainties and
contribute to the total prediction variance as model uncertainty variance σ m2 .
Non optimal parameters of the model: This is analogous to the parameter uncertainty in
physically based model. There are different parameters (for example learning rate,
momentum etc. in neural networks) that have to be selected for optimal results. If these
parameters are not optimal, then they may lead to different outcomes.
Not optimal splitting of data: A standard procedure for evaluating the performance of a
model would be to split the data into training set, cross-validation set and test set. This
approach is however, very sensitive to the specific sample splitting (LeBaron and
Weigend, 1994). In principle, all these splitting data sets should have identical
distributions, but the true distribution of the data is not known in advance. So this
causes uncertainty in prediction as well.
The prediction error of a regression model can be decomposed into the following three
sources (Geman et al., 1992): (i) model bias; (ii) model variance; and (iii) noise.
Figure 2.3. Model bias and variance. Dots represent the observed variable.
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
17
Model bias and variance may be further decomposed into contributions from data
and contributions from the training process. Furthermore, noise can be also decomposed
into target noise and input noise. The decomposition of the prediction error is illustrated
in Figure 2.3. Estimating these components of prediction error (which is however not
always possible) helps to compute the predictive uncertainty.
The terms bias and variance come from a well-known decomposition of prediction
error. Given n data points and M models, the decomposition is based on the following
equality:
1
nM
n M
1
n
1
n M
∑ ∑ ( yi − yˆij )2 = n ∑ ( yi − yˆi )2 + nM ∑ ∑ ( yˆi − yˆij )2
i =1 j =1
i =1
i =1 j =1
(2.2)
where yi denotes the ith target, yˆi , j denotes the ith output of the jth model, and
yˆi =
1
M
M
∑ yˆij denotes the average model output calculated for input i.
j =1
The left hand term of equation (2.2) is the well known mean squared error. The first
term in the right hand site is the square of bias and the last term is the variance. The bias
of the prediction errors measures the tendency of over or under prediction by a model,
and is the difference between the target value and the model output. From equation (2.2)
it is clear that the variance does not depend on the target, and measures the variability in
the predictions by different models.
2.6
Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
As discussed in section 2.4 and Chapter 1, it should be recognized that a model is only
an abstraction of reality, which generally involves certain degrees of simplifications and
idealisations. Hence the model predictions are far from being perfect no matter how
sophisticated the models are, and subject to different degree of uncertainty. As
mentioned above uncertainty in the model predictions results mainly from structure,
input and parameter uncertainty. Figure 2.4 shows how different sources of the
uncertainty vary with model complexity. In this context model complexity is measured
by its number of parameters and requirements of input data. As the model complexity
increases, in principle, structure uncertainty decreases due to detailed representation of
the physical process. However, with the increasing complexity of model, the number of
the input and parameters also increases; and if such complex models with many
parameters and data inputs are not parameterized properly or lack quality input data,
there is a high probability that uncertainty associated with input data or parameter
estimation will increase. Due to the inherent trade-off between model structure
uncertainty and input/parameter uncertainty, for every model and the associated data set
there exists the optimal level of model complexity where the total uncertainty is
minimum. A key question that then arises is how to find the optimal level of model
18 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 2.4. An illustration of relationship between different sources of uncertainty and the
combined effect on total model uncertainty. Note that y-axis scale does not start at zero.
complexity; nevertheless, several methods have been developed for this purpose (see,
e.g., Schoups et al., 2008).
Once the existence of uncertainty in a rainfall-runoff model is acknowledged, it
should be managed by a proper uncertainty analysis process to reduce the impact of
uncertainty. There is a large number of uncertainty analysis methods published in the
academic literature and Pappenberger et al. (2006) provide a decision tree to find the
appropriate method for a given situation. The uncertainty analysis process in rainfallrunoff models varies mainly in the following ways: (i) the type of rainfall-runoff models
used; (ii) the source of uncertainty to be treated; (iii) the representation of uncertainty;
(iv) the purpose of the uncertainty analysis; and (v) the availability of resources.
Uncertainty analysis is a well-accepted procedure and has comparatively long history in
physically based and conceptual modelling (see, e.g., Beven and Binley, 1992; Gupta et
al., 2005). With increasing application of data-driven techniques in rainfall-runoff
modelling, there is also growing interest to quantify the uncertainty of the predictions
made by the data-driven models. The uncertainty methods used in such models are
obviously different from those used in physically based and conceptual models.
Regarding to the sources of uncertainty, MC type methods are widely used for
parameter uncertainty, Bayesian methods and/or data assimilation can be used for input
uncertainty and Bayesian model averaging method is suitable for structure uncertainty.
Uncertainty analysis method also depends on whether the uncertainty is represented as
randomness or fuzziness for example (see section 2.7). Similarly, uncertainty analysis
methods for real time forecasting purpose would be different than those used in design
purpose (design discharge for structures built in the rivers). In the former case the
running time of the model is crucial and hence computationally expensive MC based
methods are impractical. Availability of resources such as computational power also
determines the selection of different methods used for uncertainty analysis.
Uncertainty analysis methods in all of the above cases should involve: (i)
identification and quantification of the sources of uncertainty; (ii) reduction of
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
19
uncertainty; (iii) propagation of uncertainty through the model; (iv) quantification of
uncertainty in the model outputs; and (vi) application of the uncertain information in
decision making process. However, the practice of uncertainty analysis and use of the
results of such analysis in decision making is not widespread. The reasons for this are
stated by Pappenberger and Beven (2006):
“(i) uncertainty analysis is not necessary given physically realistic models; (ii)
uncertainty analysis is not useful in understanding hydrological and hydraulic
processes; (iii) uncertainty (probability) distributions cannot be understood by policy
makers and the public; (iv) uncertainty analysis cannot be incorporated into the
decision-making process; (v) uncertainty analysis is too subjective; (vi) uncertainty
analysis is too difficult to perform; and (vii) uncertainty does not really matter in
making the final decision”.
For details the readers are referred to the citation above.
2.7
Uncertainty representation
Prior to the entry of fuzzy set theory, the probability theory has been the primary tool for
representing uncertainty in mathematical models. Klir and Folger (1988) suggest that
probability theory is appropriate for dealing with only a very special type of uncertainty,
namely randomness. However, not all uncertainty is random and probability distribution
may be not the best way to describe it. As mentioned in section 2.3, some forms of
uncertainty are due to vagueness or imprecision and cannot be treated with probabilistic
approaches. Fuzzy set theory and fuzzy measures (Zadeh, 1965, 1978) provide a nonprobabilistic approach for modelling the kind of uncertainty associated with vagueness
and imprecision.
Information theoretic approach is also used for measuring uncertainty. Information
is that which resolves and/or reduces uncertainty (Shannon, 1948). Shannon’s entropy
belongs to this type of approach. Entropy is a measure of uncertainty and information
formulated in terms of probability theory. Another broad theory of uncertainty
representation is the evidence theory introduced by Shafer (1976). Evidence theory also
known as Dempster-Shafer theory of evidence is based on both probability and
possibility theory. The following sub sections provide some details of probability
theory, fuzzy set theory and entropy.
2.7.1
Probability theory
Of all the methods for uncertainty analysis, probabilistic methods have by far the
longest tradition and are the best understood. This of course does not imply that they are
beyond criticism as any method of handling uncertainty. It does, however, mean that
they are relatively well tested and well developed and can act as a standard against
which other more recent approaches may be measured (Krause and Clark, 1993). There
20 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
are basically two broad views of probability concept: frequentist view and subjective
view. These are discussed in the following.
The frequency view of probability relates to the situation where an experiment can
be repeated indefinitely under essentially identical conditions, but the observed outcome
is random (not the same every time). Empirical evidence suggests that the proportion of
times any particular event has occurred, i.e. its relative frequency, converges to a limit
as the number of repetitions increases. This limit is the probability of the event (Hall,
2003). Thus, if nt is the total number of experiments and nx is the number of times where
the event x occurred, the probability P(x) of the event occurring will be approximated
by the relative frequency as follows:
P( x) ≈
(2.3)
nx
nt
Mentioned above, as the number of experiments approaches infinity, the relative
frequency will converge exactly to the probability:
(2.4)
nx
nt →∞ nt
P ( x) = lim
In subjective view, the probability is interpreted as a degree of belief. Subjective
view of probability is also referred as Bayesian probability, in honour of Thomas Bayes
(1702-1761), a scientist from the mid-1700s who helped to pioneer the theory of
probabilistic inference. The Bayesian probability of an event x is a person’s degree of
belief in that event. Whereas a classical probability is a physical property of the world
(e.g., the probability that a coin will land heads), the Bayesian probability is a property
of the person who assigns the probability (e.g., our degree of belief that the coin will
land heads). The basic idea in the application of subjective view of probability is to
assign a probability to any event on the basis of the current state of knowledge and to
update it in the light of the new information. The conventional procedure for updating a
prior probability (i.e. initial belief) in the light of new information is by using the
famous Bayes’ theorem. It is presented later in this section.
The mathematics of the probability theory is based on three basis axioms formulated
in 1933 by Andrei N. Kolmogorov. Let us consider the universal set X containing all
possible elements of concern. Let the event A be an element of the universal set X. The
probability P(A) of an event A is a real number in the unit interval [0,1]. The probability
obeys the following basic axioms:
Axiom 1: P(A) >= 0, i.e., the probability of an event is always non-negative.
Axiom 2: P(X) = 1, i.e. the probability of the universal set is 1.
Axiom 3: For any sequences of disjoint sets Ai ∈ X
P ( A1 ∪ A2 ∪ ...) = ∑ P( Ai )
i
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
21
Probability distribution
Let the random variable X has a set of possible discrete states x1,…,xn. Then P (X = xi)
denotes the probability of variable X being in state xi and it follows from the axioms
that:
n
(2.5)
∑ P( X = xi ) = 1
i =1
The sequence of probabilities P(X = x1), …, P(X = xn) defines a probability vector
P(X) which represents the probability distribution of X over all of its states. In
probability theory, the uncertainty of the random variable X is represented by its
probability distribution over all of its states. Cumulative distribution function (cdf) is
the accumulation of the probability distributions defined as:
x
FX ( x) = P ( X ≤ x) =
∫
f X ( x)dx
−∞
(2.6)
where f X ( x) is the probability density function of the random variable X at x (see
Figure 2.5). CDF at a (Figure 2.5 (b)) is given by
b
FX (b) = P ( X ≤ b) =
∫
f X ( x)dx
(2.7)
−∞
Figure 2.5. Example of (a) probability density function and (b) cumulative distribution function.
22 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
It then follows
b
P ( a < X ≤ b) =
∫
a
f X ( x)dx −
−∞
∫
−∞
b
f X ( x)dx = ∫ f X ( x)dx
(2.8)
a
Accordingly, if FX ( x) has a first derivative, then
f X ( x) =
dFX ( x)
dx
(2.9)
It should be noted that any function representing the probability distribution of a
random variable must necessarily satisfy the axioms of probability. For this reason, cdf
has the following properties: (i) it must be non-negative; (ii) it increases monotonically
with the value of the random variable; and (iii) the probabilities associated with all
possible values of the random variable must add up to 1.0.
Conditional probability and Bayes’ theorem
An important concept in the Bayesian treatment of uncertainties is conditional
probability. A conditional probability statement is of the following kind:
“Given the event B (and everything else known is irrelevant for A), then the
probability of the event A is r.”
The above statement is denoted as P (A/B) = r. Conditional probabilities are
essential to a fundamental rule of probability calculus, the product rule. The product
rule defines the probability of a conjunction of events:
P(A, B) = P(A/B) P(B)
(2.10)
where P(A, B) is the probability of the joint event A∪B, and also called joint probability
distribution of events A and B. If all these probabilities are conditioned by a context C,
then Equation (2.10) can be modified as:
P(A, B/C) = P(A/B, C) P(B/C)
(2.11)
The definition of conditional probability can be used to derive the well known
Bayes’ theorem (Bayes, 1958). From Equation (2.10), it follows that P(A/B) P(B)=
P(B/A) P(A) and after rearranging:
P( A / B) =
P ( B / A) P ( A)
P( B)
(2.12)
Here P(A) is the prior probability of A, that is, the belief in A before the evidence B
is considered. P(B/A) is a likelihood of A, which gives the probability of the evidence.
P(A/B) is the posterior probability of A which is updated belief in the light of evidence
B. P(B), the prior probability of the evidence, is a normalisation constant and is obtained
by evaluating the exhaustive and exclusive set of evidence scenario:
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
P ( B ) = ∑ P( B / Ai ) p ( Ai )
23
(2.13)
i
We might intuitively expect that P(A/B) increases with P(A) and P(B/A) according to
Bayes’ theorem. It provides a direct method for calculating the probability of a
hypothesis based on its prior probability, the probabilities of observing various data
given the hypothesis, and the observed data itself (Mitchell, 1997).
Measures of uncertainty
Several expressions have been used to describe the degree of uncertainty. The most
complete and ideal description of uncertainty is the Probability Density Function (pdf)
of the quantity, subject to the uncertainty. However, in most practical problems such a
probability function can not be derived or found precisely.
Another measure of the uncertainty of a quantity relates to the possibility to express
it in terms of prediction interval. The prediction intervals consist of the upper and lower
limits between which a future uncertain value of the quantity is expected to lie with a
prescribed probability (i.e., confidence level). The endpoints of a prediction interval are
known as the prediction limits. The width of the prediction interval gives us some idea
about how uncertain we are about the uncertain entity.
A useful alternative to quantify the level of uncertainty is to use the statistical
moments such as the variance, standard deviation, and coefficient of variation, when it
is difficult to derive or find the pdf.
2.7.2
Fuzzy set theory
In classical set theory, any element x of the universal set X can be classified as being
either an element of some sub-set A (x ∈ A) or an element of its complement (x ∈ A ,
i.e., x ∉ A). This is fine if the set A is precisely defined such as “the set of one digit
natural numbers”. For example, number “9” is member of set A and number “10” is not.
There is an abrupt and well defined boundary for numbers “9” and “10” belonging to
the set A. However, if set A is a vaguely defined concept like “the set of tall people”
then it can be difficult to specify whether a given individual falls into the set or not. In
order to overcome this problem, Zadeh (1965) suggested that boundaries of a set should
be fuzzified so that an element can still be a member of a set with a degree of
membership between 0 and 1.
Figure 2.6 shows the example of classical and fuzzy set of “tall” people. In Figure
2.6 (a), the height of 1.8 m is precisely defined as tall people (with membership of 1.0),
where as the height of 1.6 m is not tall (with membership of 0). However, in the fuzzy
set, the height of 1.8 m belongs to the set of tall people with degree of membership 0.95
and the height of 1.6 m belongs to the set of tall people with degree of membership
24 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
μ
(a)
1.0
0.5
0
μ
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9
height
1.5
1.6
1.7
1.8
1.9
height
(b)
1.0
0.5
0
Figure 2.6. An example of “tall” people for (a) crisp set and (b) fuzzy set .
0.05. For a person with height 1.7 m we can say that he/she is either tall or not because
he has a membership 0.5 to the set of tall or 0.5 to the set of its complement.
In fuzzy sets, the transition between membership and non-membership can be
gradual. This gradual transition of memberships is due to the fact that the boundaries of
fuzzy sets are defined imprecisely and vaguely. This property of a fuzzy set makes the
fuzzy set theory viable for the representation of uncertainty in a non-probabilistic form
(Maskey, 2004).
Mathematically the fuzzy set A which is a subset of the universal set X is defined
by the membership function:
μ A ( x) : X → [0,1]
(2.14)
The membership function μ A ( x) maps every element of the universe of discourse X
to the interval [0,1]. Now, fuzzy set A can be defined by ordered pair of the elements of
fuzzy set and degree of membership to the set as:
A = {( x, μ A ( x)}
(2.15)
where x ∈ X , and μ A ( x) ∈ [0,1]
2.7.3
Entropy theory
The concept of entropy plays a pivotal role in information theory. Shannon (1948) is a
pioneer who developed entropy theory for the expression of information or uncertainty.
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
25
He defined entropy as a quantitative measure of uncertainty associated with a
probability distribution or the information content of the distribution. The uncertainty
can be quantified with entropy taking into account all the different kinds of available
information (Singh, 2000). Thus, entropy is a measure of the amount of uncertainty
represented by the probability distribution and is a measure of chaos or the lack of
information about a system. Roughly speaking, entropy is a mathematical formulation
of the uncertainty and/or the amount of information in a data set. If complete
information is available, entropy equals zero, otherwise it is greater than zero.
Small sample size and limited information render estimation of probability
distributions of system variables with conventional methods quite difficult. This
problem can be alleviated by use of entropy theory, which enables the determination of
the least-biased probability distribution with limited knowledge and data. Entropy
theory is versatile, robust and efficient (Singh, 1997).
In recent years, entropy theory has been applied to a great variety of problems in
hydrology (e.g., Singh and Rajagopal, 1987; Singh, 1997). However, Amorocho and
Espildora (1973) were the first to introduce the concept of entropy in the assessment of
uncertainty in daily runoff simulation models. Markus et al. (2003) used entropy theory
to quantify uncertainty in the results of neural networks based models.
In order to formulate the concept of entropy mathematically, consider an example
from Shannon (1948). Suppose we have a set of n possible outcomes x1, …, xn with
probabilities of occurrence p1, …, pn respectively. The target is to find a function H(p1,
…, pn) which measures the uncertainty in the outcome. The function must satisfy the
following conditions:
• H should be continuous in the pi
• If all the pi are equal then pi = 1/n. It follows that H should be a monotonically
increasing function of n. With equally likely events there is more choice, or
uncertainty, when there are more possible events.
• If a choice be broken down into two successive choices, the original H should be
the weighted sum of the individual values of H.
The only H satisfying the three above conditions is of the form:
n
H = −k ∑ pi log pi
i =1
(2.16)
where k is positive constant and depends on the base of logarithm used. Equation (2.16)
can be generalized for random variable X with variate values xn as:
26 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
N
H ( X ) = ∑ P ( xn ) log
n =1
1
P ( xn )
(2.17)
where P(xn) is the probability of outcome xn.
Figure 2.7. Entropy in the case of two possibilities.
Entropy H(X) is also called the marginal entropy of a single variable X. It can be
shown that the value of H(X) will be maximum when all the xn are equally likely (i.e.
1/N). This is also intuitively the most uncertain situation (see Figure 2.7). In this case
maximum entropy is given by:
H max ( X ) = log N
(2.18)
At the other extreme, when all outcomes except one have zero probability, H(x)
vanishes; this corresponds to absolute certainty.
2.8
Uncertainty analysis methods
A number of methods have been proposed in the literature to estimate model uncertainty
in rainfall-runoff modelling. Through reviews of various methods of uncertainty
analysis on rainfall-runoff models can be found in e.g., Melching (1995); Gupta et al.
(2005); Montanari (2007); Moradkhani and Sorooshian (2008); Shrestha and
Solomatine (2008). Table 2.1 presents references to some of the uncertainty analysis
methods used in rainfall-runoff modelling. These methods are broadly classified into six
categories:
1. Analytical methods (see, e.g., Tung, 1996);
2. Approximation methods e.g., first-order second moment method (Melching,
1992);
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
27
3. Simulation and sampling-based (Monte Carlo) methods (see, e.g., Kuczera and
Parent, 1998);
4. Methods from group (3) which are also generally attributed to Bayesian
methods e.g., ‘‘generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation’’ (GLUE) by
Beven and Binley (1992);
5. Methods based on the analysis of model errors (see, e.g., Montanari and Brath,
2004); and
6. Methods based on fuzzy set theory (see, e.g., Maskey et al., 2004).
All above methods except last one are probabilistic methods. In probabilistic
methods, uncertain variables are considered as random and defined by their pdfs.
Generally the probabilistic methods involve the propagation of either the pdfs or other
statistics of the pdfs through the model.
There are different techniques of uncertainty propagation in probabilistic methods
involving different levels of mathematical complexity and data requirements. The
appropriate technique to be used depends upon the nature of the problem at hand
including the availability of information, model complexity, and type and accuracy of
the results desired. The most direct method to assess the uncertainty of a system output
is to derive its statistics from knowledge of the statistical properties of the system itself
and the input data (Langley, 2000). However, this approach may be limited by two main
problems. First, the derivation of the statistics of the output can imply significant
mathematical and numerical difficulties; second, the statistical properties of the system
and the input may not be known in detail.
Let us consider a function of the form Y = g(X). If the uncertain input X is random,
then the output Y is also random and its probability distribution, as well as its moments,
will be functionally related to and may be derived from X. For simple problems where
the function g is known, it is not so difficult to derive the pdf of the output Y
analytically – for example, using the derived distribution method (Ang and Tang, 1975;
Tung, 1996).
Table 2.1. References to some of the uncertainty analysis methods used in rainfall-runoff
modelling. Note that this list is not exclusive.
Type of
Authors
Source
Methods
models
Montanari and Brath (2004)
C
Aggregate
Meta-Gaussian
Shrestha and Solomatine (2006a, 2008)
D, C
Aggregate
Machine learning
Beven and Binley (1992)
P
Parameter
GLUE
Maskey and Guino (2003); Melching
P
Parameter
FOSM
(1992)
Kuczera and Parent (1998)
C
Parameter
MCMC
Krzysztofowicz (1999)
P
Aggregate
BFBS
Butts et al. (2004)
P
Structure
Parameter,
Uhlenbrook et al. (1999)
C
MC
Structure
Note - P: Physically based model, C: Conceptual model, D: Data-driven model
28 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
However in rainfall-runoff modelling, the functional relationship is so complex and
non-linear in multiple variables that analytical derivations are virtually impossible. In
such a case sampling based method such as MC simulation or Latin hypercube sampling
(McKay et al., 1979) or approximation methods such as Rosenblueth’s point estimation
(Rosenblueth, 1975), Harr’s point estimation (Harr, 1989) or First-Order Second
Moment (FOSM) methods (Melching, 1992; Maskey and Guinot, 2003) are inevitable
for practical applications. The sampling methods provide the estimation of probability
distribution of an output, while approximation methods provide only the moments of the
distributions. These methods are described briefly below.
2.8.1 Analytical methods
Derived distribution method also called transformation of variables method is analytical
method to determines the distribution of random variable Y through the functional
relationship Y = g(X). Given the pdfs or cdfs of the random variable X, the cdf of Y can
be obtained as:
FY ( y ) = FX [ g −1 ( y )]
(2.19)
where g −1 ( y ) represents the inverse function of g. Then the pdf of Y, fY(y) can be
obtained by taking derivative of FY(y) with respect to y as:
fY ( y ) =
dFY ( y )
dg −1 ( y )
= f X ( g −1 ( y )
dy
dy
(2.20)
In principle, the concept of deriving the pdf of a random variable as functions of the
pdfs of other random variables is simple and straightforward. However, the success of
implementing such procedures largely depends on the functional relationship, the form
of the pdfs involved. As mentioned before this method is rarely used in rainfall-runoff
modelling, because of the non-linearity and complexity of the model.
2.8.2 Approximation methods
As mentioned before, most of the models used in rainfall-runoff modelling are nonlinear and highly complex. This basically limits analytical derivation of the statistical
properties of the model output. An alternative approach to estimation and propagation
of uncertainty are the “point methods based on first order analysis. The First Order
Second Moment (FOSM) is one of the most widely used techniques for uncertainty
analysis in civil engineering application. The FOSM estimates uncertainty in terms of
mean and variance of the system outputs from the given values of mean and variance of
input uncertain variables. It uses the first-order terms of the Taylor series expansion
about the mean value of each input variable. The great advantage of the FOSM method
is its simplicity, computational efficiency, and requiring knowledge of only the first two
statistical moments (i.e. mean and variance) of the input variables. Numerical and
sometimes even analytical derivatives can be used to calculate the expected value and
the variance of the predicted variable (e.g. streamflow). However it has the several
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
29
theoretical problems. The main weakness is the assumption that a single linearisation of
the system performance function at the central values of the basic variables is
representative of the statistical properties of system performance over the complete
range of basic variables (Melching, 1995). For non-linear system like rainfall-runoff
modelling this assumption becomes less and less valid as the basic variables depart from
the central values.
Several methods have been proposed to correct the undesirable behaviour of the
FOSM method due to linearisation of the system performance function (see, e.g.,
Melching, 1992; Maskey and Guinot, 2003). Furthermore, other approximation method
such as Rosenblueth’s point estimation method (Rosenblueth, 1975) also uses the mean
and covariance of the variables in a Taylor series expansion, but does not require the
calculation of derivatives as FOMS does. Yet another method – Harr’s point estimation
method (Harr, 1989) reduces the number of simulations required for Rosenblueth’s
method from 2p to 2p, where p is the number of model parameters.
2.8.3 Simulation and sampling-based methods
Monte Carlo (MC) simulation is a sampling method which was named for Monte Carlo,
Monaco, where the primary attractions are casinos containing games of chance. The
random behaviour in games of chance is similar to how MC simulation selects variable
values at random to simulate a model.
MC simulation is an extremely flexible and robust method capable of solving a great
variety of problems. In fact, it may be the only method that can estimate the complete
probability distribution of the model output for cases with highly non-linear and or
complex system relationship (Melching, 1995). It has been used extensively and as a
standard means of comparison against other methods for uncertainty assessment.
In MC simulation, random values of each of uncertain variables are generated
according to their respective probability distributions and the model is run for each of
realizations of uncertain variables. Since we have multiple realizations of outputs from
the model, standard statistical technique can be used to estimate the statistical properties
(mean, standard deviation etc.) and empirical probability distribution of the model
output. The basically MC simulation method involves the following steps (see also
Figure 2.8):
1. Randomly sample uncertain variables Xi from their joint probability
distributions.
2. Run the model y =g(xi) with the set of random variables xi. Store the model
output y.
3. Repeat the steps 1 and 2 s times. This gives the realizations of the outputs y1, ...,
ys.
4. From the realizations y1, …, ys, derive the cdf and other statistical properties
(e.g. mean and standard deviation) of Y.
30 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 2.8. Flow chart of Monte Carlo simulation to analyse parameter uncertainty.
The accuracy of the MC method is inversely proportional to the square root of the
number of runs s and, therefore, increases gradually with s. As such, the method is
computationally expensive, but can reach an arbitrarily level of accuracy. The MC
method is generic, invokes fewer assumptions, and requires less user-input than other
uncertainty analysis methods. However, the MC method suffers from two major
practical limitations: (i) it is difficult to sample the uncertain variables from their joint
distribution unless the distribution is well approximated by a multinormal distribution
(Kuczera and Parent, 1998); and (ii) It is computationally expensive for complex model.
Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method such as Metropolis and Hastings (MH)
algorithm (Metropolis et al., 1953; Hastings, 1970) has been used to effectively sample
parameter from its posterior distribution. In order to reduce the number of samples
(model simulations), McKay et al. (1979) introduced efficient sampling scheme so
called Latin hypercube sampling.
In a separate line of research within the sampling methods to estimate the parameter
uncertainty the following methods can be mentioned: recursive algorithms such as
Kalman filter and its extensions ((Kitanidis and Bras, 1980), the DYNIA approach
(Wagener et al., 2003), the BaRE approach (Thiemann et al., 2001), the SCEM-UA
algorithm (Vrugt et al., 2003). Most of these newly developed methods are based on
Bayesian approach.
Most of the probabilistic techniques for uncertainty analysis treat only one source of
uncertainty (i.e. parameter uncertainty). Recently attention has been given to other
sources of uncertainty, such as input uncertainty or structure uncertainty, as well as
integrated approach to combine different sources of uncertainty. The research shows
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
31
that input or structure uncertainty is more dominant than the parameter uncertainty. For
example, Kavetski et al. (2006) and Vrugt et al. (2008a) among others treats input
uncertainty in hydrological modelling using Bayesian approach. Butts et al. (2004)
analysed impact of the model structure on hydrological modelling uncertainty for
streamflow simulation. Recently new schemes have emerged to estimate the combined
uncertainties in rainfall-runoff predictions associated with input, parameter and structure
uncertainty. For instance, Ajami (2007) used an integrated Bayesian multimodel
approach to combine input, parameter and model structure uncertainty. Liu and Gupta
(2007) applied integrated data assimilation approach to treat all sources of uncertainty.
The readers are referred to the above sources for the detailed descriptions of the
methodologies.
Latin hypercube sampling
As mentioned in the previous subsection, MC simulations results inevitably involve
sampling errors which decrease as the sample size increases. Increasing sample size for
achieving higher precision means an increase in computational time which is not
practical in many cases. Variance reduction techniques aim at obtaining high precision
for MC simulation results without having to substantially increase the sample size.
Several variance reduction techniques are reported in the literature (see, e.g., Tung,
1996); among them Latin Hypercube Sampling (LHS) (McKay et al., 1979) is widely
used.
LHS is a stratified sampling approach (in contrast to random sampling in MC) that
efficiently estimates the statistics of the output. In LHS the probability distribution of
each uncertain variable is subdivided into K non-overlapping intervals with an equal
probability of 1/K. A single value is sampled within each interval according to the
probability distribution. Thus LHS selects K different values from each of N variables
X1,…, Xn. K values obtained from X1 are paired in a random manner with K values of X2.
These K pairs are combined in a random manner with K values of X3 to form K triplets,
and so on, until K N-tuplets are formed. Thus we create input matrix of size K by N
where, ith row consists of specific values of each of N input variables to be used for ith
run of the model. The output statistics, probability distribution may then be
approximated from the sample of K output values. Example of 5 samples generated by
LHS in 2 dimensional spaces is illustrated in Figure 2.9.
Empirical results show that stratified sampling procedure of LHS converges more
quickly than random sampling employed in MC and other stratified sampling
procedures. Similar to MC, accuracy of LHS is a function of the number of samples K.
McKay (1988) suggests that K equals twice the number of uncertain variables might
provide a good balance of accuracy and computational cost for models with large
numbers of parameters. However, each modeller must check for convergence for the
model and problem in question (Melching, 1995). In practice, determining the value of
K can be difficult (Helton and Davis, 2003)..
32 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 2.9. Schematic overview of one possible LHS of size 5 for two variables.
Ensemble methods
Ensemble forecast techniques originally deployed in weather forecasts are recently
becoming popular in hydrological forecasting as well. These techniques are attractive
because they allow effects of a wide range of sources of uncertainty on hydrological
forecasts to be accounted for. Forecasting should not only offer an estimate of the most
probable future state of the system, but also provide an estimate of the range of possible
outcomes. Not only does ensemble forecasting in hydrology offer a general approach to
probabilistic forecasting; it offers an approach to improve the hydrological forecasts
accuracy as well.
In ensemble method, the deterministic model is run several times with a slightly
different initial conditions or parameters. An average, or "ensemble mean", of the
different forecasts is created. This ensemble mean will likely have more skill because it
averages over the many possible initial states and essentially smoothes the chaotic
nature of the system if exists. Based on these ensembles of forecasts, it is possible to
forecast hydrological events probabilistically. From the ensembles of the forecasts of
the hydrological variables (e.g. runoff), empirical cumulative distribution of the
forecasts is derived. The empirical distribution is produced by ranking the M forecasts
and calculating the associated probability for each. Let {Q(l), …, Q(M)} denote the order
statistics of the ensemble forecasts {Ql, …, QM} such that Q(l) < Q(2) <, …, <Q(M).
The empirical cumulative distribution is approximated by:
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
P (Q ≤ Q(i ) ) =
i
( M + 1)
33
(2.21)
where P is the probability, i is the rank of the forecast Q(i) in the ensemble, M is the
number of ensemble. The main assumptions to derive the probabilistic forecasting from
the ensemble forecasts are the following: (i) forecasts are independent realizations of
same underlying random process and (ii) the probabilities are computed assuming that
each ensemble member is equally likely.
Because of a limited number of realizations, an ensemble forecast does not produce
a full forecast probability distribution over all possible events. Furthermore the
ensemble forecast underestimated the total uncertainty because not all sources of
uncertainty are accounted for in the ensemble generator. Consequently an ensemble
forecast does not always constitute a probabilistic forecast (Krzysztofowicz, 2001a).
Ensemble methods are also widely used in data-driven modelling to improve the
performance of the resulting model. Bagging (Breiman, 1996a; 1996b) and Boosting
(Schapire, 1990; Freund and Schapire, 1996; 1997) are the two popular ensemble
methods that combine the outputs from different predictors to improve the accuracy of
prediction. Several studies of boosting and bagging in classification have demonstrated
that these techniques are generally more accurate than the individual classifiers
(Shrestha and Solomatine, 2006b). The robustness of such techniques is that it is also
possible to estimate uncertainty of the prediction.
2.8.4
Bayesian methods
This class of methods combines Bayes’ theorem and various variants of MC simulations
to either estimate or update the probability distribution function of the uncertain input
variables and consequently propagate the distributions from input to the model output.
Many of the methods from group (3) are attributed to this class as well. Bayesian
forecasting system, GLUE and stochastic emulator based methods are among them and
are briefly described in this section.
Bayesian forecasting system
Bayesian approach to uncertainty analysis, named Bayesian Forecasting System
(BFS) is reported by Krzysztofowicz (1999). The BFS decomposes the total uncertainty
about the variable to be forecasted into input uncertainty and hydrologic uncertainty. In
the BFS, the input uncertainty is associated with those inputs into the hydrological
model which constitute the dominant sources of uncertainty and which therefore are
treated as random and has a significant impact on the model output. The hydrologic
uncertainty is associated with all other sources of uncertainty such as model, parameter,
estimation and measurement errors. The input uncertainty and the hydrologic
uncertainty are processed separately through the so-called input uncertainty processor
(Kelly and Krzysztofowicz, 2000) and hydrologic uncertainty processor
34 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
(Krzysztofowicz and Kelly, 2000) respectively, and integrated by the so-called
integrator (Krzysztofowicz, 2001b) to obtain the total uncertainty. The BFS consists of
all the mentioned components. For detailed description of the BFBS readers are referred
to the citations above and references therein.
GLUE method
GLUE is acronym for Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation introduced by
Beven and Binley (1992). The GLUE procedure is a basically Monte Carlo method with
constraints on the admissible parameters vectors, and is based on the premise that there
are many different model structures and many different parameter sets within chosen
model structure that may be behavioural or acceptable in reproducing the observed
behaviour of the system. This concept is called equifinality (Beven and Freer, 2001).
Thus, the GLUE procedure recognizes that no single optimum parameter set exists in
the calibration of distributed model, but rather a range of different sets of model
parameter values may represent the process equally well. Savenije (2001) argue that
equifinality is a blessing rather than a curse; it is in fact the justification for many of the
hydrological theories we use.
The GLUE procedure consists of making a large number of runs of a given model
with different sets of parameter values chosen randomly from specified parameter
distributions. The output from each model run is compared to the corresponding
observed data and each model run (associated with a set of parameter values sampled) is
assigned a likelihood value. The likelihood value is related to the performance of the
model (a way to measure how well the model fits the observed data) and thus, higher
values of likelihood typically indicate better correspondence between the model outputs
and observations. All simulations (i.e., model runs) with likelihood measures greater
than predefined threshold value are considered behavioural and retained for further
analysis. The likelihood values of the behavioural simulations are rescaled such that the
sum of the likelihood values equal unity. Finally, the uncertainty of the model output is
estimated by deriving the likelihood weighted cumulative distribution function of the
output from the behavioural simulations.
The GLUE methodology also recognises that as more data or different types of data
are made available, it may be necessary to update the likelihood measures associated
with different simulations. This is achieved quite easily using Bayes’ theorem, which
allows a prior distribution of likelihood weights to be modified by a set of likelihood
weights arising from the simulation of a new data set to produce an updated or posterior
likelihood distribution (Freer et al., 1996). This updating of likelihood weight is
important to refine the uncertainty estimate over time as more observed data become
available. The details of the GLUE method can be found elsewhere (e.g., Beven and
Binley, 1992; Freer et al., 1996; Beven and Freer, 2001; Beven, 2006).
GLUE is one of the popular methods in analysing the parameter uncertainty in
hydrological modelling and widely used over the past ten years to analyse and estimate
predictive uncertainty, particularly in hydrological applications (see, e.g., Freer et al.,
1996; Beven and Freer, 2001; Montanari, 2005). Users of GLUE are attracted by its
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
35
simple understandable ideas, relative ease of implementation and use, and its ability to
handle different error structures and models without major modifications of the method
itself. Despite its popularity, there are theoretical and practical issues related to GLUE
method reported in the literatures. For instance, Mantovan and Todini (2006) argue that
GLUE is inconsistent with the Bayesian inference processes that leads to overestimation
of uncertainty, both for the parameter uncertainty estimation and predictive uncertainty
estimation. For this the readers are referred to Mantovan and Todini (2006) and the
subsequent discussions in the Journal of Hydrology in 2007 and 2008.
A practical problem with the GLUE method is that, for models with a large number
of parameters, the sample size from the respective parameter distributions must be very
large to achieve a reliable estimate of model uncertainties (Kuczera and Parent, 1998).
In order to reduce the number of sample size (i.e., model runs) hybrid genetic algorithm
and artificial neural network is applied by Khu and Werner (2003). Blasone et al. (2008)
used adaptive Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling within the GLUE methodology to
improve the sampling of the high probability density region of the parameter space. Yet
another way to reduce the number of Monte Carlo simulations could be to use SCEMUA algorithm (Vrugt et al., 2003).
Another practical issue is that the percentage of the observations falling within the
prediction limits provided by GLUE are much lower than the given confidence level
used to produce these prediction limits in many cases (see. e.g., Montanari, 2005).
Xiong and O’Connor (2008) modified the GLUE method to improve the efficiency of
the GLUE prediction limits in enveloping the observed discharge.
Stochastic emulator based method
As mentioned before, the standard techniques (i.e. MC simulation) for uncertainty
analysis demand a very large number of model runs, and when a single model run takes
several minutes these methods become impractical. Over the last 10 years, a range of
efficient tools have been developed using Bayesian statistics for calibration, sensitivity
and uncertainty analysis of complex models. One of the tools is the use of emulator,
which is a statistical approximation of the simulator (O’Hagan, 2006). If the
approximation is good enough, then the uncertainty analysis produced by the emulator
will be sufficiently close to those that would have been obtained using the original
simulator.
Let function f(.) is the simulator that maps inputs x into an scalar output y = f(x) and
fˆ (.) be the approximation of it. An emulator not only provides an approximation to f(x)
but also an entire probability distribution for f(x). The two most desirable properties of
the emulator fˆ (.) for uncertainty analysis are: (i) fˆ (.) should be simpler than the
original function f(.); and (ii) fˆ (.) should be computed much faster than f(.). The
description of building an emulator can be described briefly as follows:
36 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
1. Construct training data by running the simulator for different configuration of
input data x. Here input data x represents all uncertain variables (e.g. forcing
data, model parameters or initial condition etc) of the simulator.
2. Consider the simulator f(.) as unknown random function and represent it by
suitable statistical function fˆ (.) . One of the functions is Gaussian process (see,
e.g., Kennedy and O'Hagan, 2001; O’Hagan, 2006; Goldstein and Rougier,
2009) which is more efficient and analytically very tractable. A Gaussian
process is an extension of normal or Gaussian distribution. It is a distribution for
a function, where each point f(x) has a normal distribution.
3. Assume prior distribution for the hyper-parameters of the Gaussian process. The
posterior distribution of the hyper-parameters is estimated using the training
data. This posterior distribution is the emulator.
The detailed description of the Gaussian process emulator and its application can be
found in the citation above.
2.8.5
Methods based on the analysis of model errors
Meta-Gaussian method
The meta-Gaussian method (Montanari and Brath, 2004) is a statistical method to
estimate the uncertainty by analyzing the model residuals that occurred in reproducing
the observed historical data. This method is based on meta-Gaussian bivariate
probability distribution model introduced in hydrology by Kelly and Krzysztofowicz
(1997). The bivariate meta-Gaussian distribution is constructed by fitting with a
bivariate Gaussian distribution random variables with arbitrary marginal distribution by
embedding the normal quantile transform (NQT) of each variate into the Gaussian law.
The meta-Gaussian method computes model uncertainty by estimating the pdf of the
model error conditioned by the contemporary value of the simulated river flow. In this
method, both model residuals and simulated model outputs are transformed into the
Gaussian domain by NQT. Let S(t) and E(t) denote the stochastic processes of the
model simulation st and the corresponding error et, respectively. The arbitrary marginal
distribution of S(t) and E(t) are denoted by P(S ≤ st) and P(E ≤ et). The procedure of the
meta-Gaussian method can be described briefly as follows:
1. NQT is applied in order to make P(S ≤ st) and P(E ≤ et) Gaussian. The NQT
involves the following steps: (i) the cumulative frequency F(st) is computed for
each st using the Weibull plotting position, that is; F(st) = jt/(n+1). Here jt is the
position occupied by st in the data rearranged in ascending order. (ii) The
standard normal quantile Nst for each F(st) is computed using:
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
NS (t ) = Q −1[ P ( S ≤ st )]
37
(2.22)
where Q-1 is inverse of the standard normal distribution, and distribution P(S ≤
st) of each st is approximated with corresponding sample frequency F(st).
2. The discrete mapping of st in its normalised space Nst is obtained using equation
(2.22). This mapping is used to interpolate linearly the inverse of Nst to get back
in original space.
3. The cross dependence between NS(t) and NE(t) is computed according to the
formula:
Net = σ Nst + N ε t
(2.23)
where σ is the linear correlation coefficient between NS(t) and NE(t), and Nεt is
the outcome of the stochastic process.
4. The conditional mean μ and variance σ2 of the model error in the normalise
space NE(t) are given by:
μ = ρ Nst
2
σ = 1− ρ
(2.24)
2
5. The prediction limits corresponding to α significance level is computed
according to the formula:
PLU = st + Q −1[ μ + zα / 2σ ]
(2.25)
−1
PL = st + Q [ μ − zα / 2σ ]
L
where PLU and PLL are the upper and lower prediction limits, respectively, zα/2
is the value of the standard normal variate with cumulative probability level of
α/2.
The meta-Gaussian approach is based on certain assumptions about the residuals of
the normal linear equation (i.e., equation (2.23)): they should be Gaussian and
homoscedastic. Furthermore, the regression of NE(t) on NS(t) should be linear.
However, in practical application, some of these basic assumptions are not satisfied. It is
suggested to verify the goodness of the fit provided by the meta-Gaussian model. The
lack of fit can be resolved by transforming the model residuals according to the outline
presented by Montanari and Brath (2004) to stabilize their variances. Recently
Montanari and Grossi (2008) used separate meta-Gaussian models for positive and
negative errors if good fit was not achieved through the linear regression. The details of
the meta-Gaussian method and its applications to estimate the uncertainty of rainfallrunoff simulations can be found in the citation above.
38 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Quantile regression method
Much less known quantile regression (QR) introduced by Koenker and Bassett (1978) is
a statistical technique intended to estimate the conditional quantile functions. Just as
classical linear regression methods based on minimizing sums of squared residuals
enable one to estimate models for conditional mean of the response variable given
certain values of the predictor variables, QR methods offer a mechanism for estimating
models for the conditional median function, and the full range of other conditional
quantile functions. By supplementing the estimation of conditional mean functions with
techniques for estimating an entire family of conditional quantile functions, QR is
capable of providing a more complete statistical analysis of the stochastic relationships
among random variables.
The pth regression quantile (0 < p < 1) for output variable y is defined as any
solution to the minimization problem:
⎡
⎤
min ⎢ ∑
p yt − xt b +
(1 − p ) yt − xt b ⎥
∑
⎥
b∈ℜ K ⎢ t∈{t: y ≥ x b}
t∈{t: yt < xt b}
t
t
⎣
⎦
(2.26)
where xt is the vector of input, b is the solutions of equation. This minimization problem
can be solved very efficiently by linear programming methods.
Although the QR technique was applied successfully in many fields because of its
insensitivity to outliers and avoidance of parametric assumptions, its application to
compute quantiles of the simulations of the conceptual or distributed rainfall-runoff
model is not straightforward because of the complexity and non-linearity of the rainfallrunoff process which hinder to present inputs and output of the rainfall-runoff model in
the form of equation (2.26). However, it is possible to use it to predict the conditional
quantiles of the model errors of runoff predictions. In this thesis we have also used QR
techniques to estimate the quantiles of the rainfall-runoff model errors.
2.8.6
Fuzzy set theory-based methods
Fuzzy set theory provides a means for representing uncertainties. It is powerful tool for
modelling the kind of uncertainty associated with vagueness, with imprecision, and/or
with a lack of information regarding a particular element of the problem at hand. The
underlying power of fuzzy set theory is that it uses linguistic variables, rather than
quantitative variables to represents imprecise concepts. Fuzzy extension principle based
method and fuzzy α-cut technique are the widely used fuzzy set theory based method
for uncertainty handling. The fuzzy extension principle provides a mechanism for the
mapping of the uncertain input variables defined by their membership functions to the
resulting uncertain output variable in the form of a membership function (Maskey,
2004).
Chapter 2. Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling
39
Fuzzy α-cut technique is approximation for fuzzy extension principle method as
direct application of the extension principle is very time consuming and difficult for
complex problems involving many input variables. An α-cut is a crisp set consisting of
elements of A which belongs to the fuzzy set at least to degree α. An example of α-cut
with triangular membership function is shown in Figure 2.10. The α- cut level intersects
at two points a and b on the membership function. The values of the variables x
corresponding to the points a and b are x1 and x2 ( x1 , x2 ∈ X ) respectively. Then the set
Aα contains all the possible values of the variables X including and between x1 and x2.
The x1 and x2 are commonly referred as lower and upper bounds of the α-cut,
respectively. By considering the fuzzy variable at a given α- cut level, operations on
fuzzy set can be reduced to operations within the interval arithmetic.
Fuzzy set theory-based methods are powerful but they also have some limitations for
modelling uncertainty:
• They cannot handle all type of uncertainty but suitable only for a kind of
uncertainty coming from vagueness;
• They require knowledge of the membership function of the uncertain variables
which is very subjective;
• They cannot incorporate the effect of the correlation between the uncertain input
variables.
The details of the method can be found in Maskey (2004) and its application in
hydrological modelling is reported in Maskey et al. (2004) and in Abebe et al. (2000).
μ X i (x)
α − cut level
αi
xil
Figure 2.10. Illustration of an α -cut of fuzzy set.
xiu
Chapter 3
Machine Learning Techniques
This chapter presents an overview of the machine learning techniques used in
this research. Brief descriptions of machine learning techniques namely artificial
neural networks, model trees, instance based learning, and some clustering
techniques are given. These learning methods are extensively used in the
following chapters in modelling the uncertainty of the rainfall-runoff models.
3.1
Introduction
In Chapter 2, we presented three classes of rainfall-runoff models and introduced datadriven modelling. Data-driven modelling utilises the theoretical foundations and
methods of machine learning applied to the measured data (Solomatine, 2002). Machine
learning is a subfield of artificial intelligence that is concerned with the design and
development of algorithms that allow computers (machines) to improve their
performance over time, based on data. A major focus of machine learning research is to
automatically produce (induce) models from data through experience.
Learning from data in machine learning is not a completely new phenomenon.
Statistical methods, known for a long time, also learn from data. However, in most of
these methods the structure of the model to be built has to be determined first, which is
done with the aid of the empirical or analytical approaches, before the unknown model
parameters can be estimated (Chakraborty et al., 1992). In this sense these methods can
be seen as the model-driven approaches. The greatest plus of a model-driven approach
is that it produces a simple and understandable picture of the relationship between the
input variables and the responses or output (Breiman, 2001). However, in model driven
approaches, the model that generates the data is assumed or should be known priori, and
in many statistical models strong assumptions about the properties of data (e.g.,
normality) are made.
In contrast, most machine learning is positioned as the methods learning from the
data or examples and able to capture subtle functional relationship between the input
variables and the output, even if the underlying mechanism producing data is not known
or hard to describe. This modelling approach with the ability to learn from experience is
very useful for many practical problems since it is easier to have data than to have good
42 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
theoretical guesses about the underlying laws governing the system from which data are
generated. Note however, that there is no clear division between statistical methods
(some of which are called statistical learning methods) and machine learning (Hastie et
al., 2001)
Machine learning is a multidisciplinary field which is enriched with the concepts
drawn from many fields such as statistics, artificial intelligence, information
technology, neurobiology, physiology, control theory and other. With ever growing
computational power and development of new techniques to acquisition, storage and
transmission of data, machine learning methods bloomed dramatically in the last
decade. In recent years many machine learning techniques have been applied
successfully in many fields including finance, autonomous vehicle driving on public
highways, robotics, military applications, engineering, etc.
3.2
Machine learning types
There are basically three types of machine learning methods, namely supervised,
unsupervised and reinforcement learning. Supervised learning is a machine learning
technique for learning functional relationships between the input data and the output
from training data. The training data consist of pairs of input data and desired outputs.
The output of the function can be a continuous value (in this case the style of learning is
called regression), or can predict a class label of the input variable (style of learning is
called classification). The task of a supervised learner is to predict the output for any
new input vector after having seen a number of training examples. To achieve this, the
learner has to generalize from the presented data to unseen situations with a reasonable
accuracy. The examples of supervised learning methods are artificial neural networks,
decision trees, model trees, instance based learning, support vector machines, etc.
In the unsupervised learning, the training data consists of only input data and the
target output is not known. The learner task is to determine how the data are organized
and to reveal some important features or characteristics of the data. One form of
unsupervised learning is clustering, where the data are grouped into subsets according to
similarity between them.
Reinforcement learning is machine learning approach concerned with how an
autonomous agent that senses and acts in its environment can learn to choose optimal
actions to achieve its goal (Mitchell, 1997). Reinforcement learning algorithms attempt
to find a policy that maps states of the world to the actions the agent ought to take in
those states. They incorporate learning a mapping from situations to actions by trial and
error interactions with a dynamic environment. The components of reinforcement
learning are: an agent, a dynamic environment to act, and a reward function.
Reinforcement learning differs from the supervised learning problem in that correct
input/output pairs are never presented. Reinforcement learning is used in modelling an
optimal control strategy.
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
43
Machine learning methods can be also classified into eager learning or lazy learning.
The former type constructs explicitly the model to predict or classify the output as soon
as the training examples are presented. The latter type simply stores the presented
training data and postpones using it until a new instance or input has to be predicted or
classified. Examples of eager learning are artificial neural networks, decision trees and
model trees etc. K-nearest neighbour and locally weighted regressions are lazy learning
methods.
In this chapter supervise learning techniques - artificial neural networks and model
tress; lazy learning technique – locally weighted regression; and unsupervised learning
technique – clustering methods are described briefly.
3.3
Learning principle and notations
Before going to the details of the principles of machine learning, it is required to define
some terminologies which are frequently used in the rest of the thesis. Consider a set of
n examples D = {X, y} consisting of p input variables and one dimensional output. Here
data D is a set of input-output pairs. X = {x1, …, xp} is the matrix of the input where xj is
the column vector having n number of examples and p is the number of variables. y is
the vector of the desired output. Hence data D is n by (p+1) matrix, where input data
matrix X is size of n by p. Note that x = {x1, …, xp} represents a single input vector and
y represents the corresponding scalar output.
Instance, example or a data point is used to describe a record of a data and these
terms are used interchangeably thought the thesis. Likewise the components of input
vector are variously called attributes, input variables or features and used
interchangeably. The term output is used in conjunction with the terms like “observed”
or “measured” and thus observed (or measured) output denotes the system’s output
variable which has to be predicted from the model. The response from the model is
termed as model output or simply output or prediction. In this thesis machine learning
model is also called simply the model.
Unless specified, the following indices and notations are used in this thesis - i: index
for a row of data, n: total number of data, j: index for a column of data, p: number of the
attributes, k: index for the output, l: number of the output variables.
Having defined some terminology, we can now present the principle of machine
learning in the context of supervised learning. A machine learning technique, on the
basis of observed data D tries to identify (“learn”) the target function f(x,w) describing
how the real system behaves. In other words, the learning aim is to approximate
function f that operates on input data x to predict the output y with a desired degree of
accuracy. Learning (or training) here is the process of minimizing the difference
between observed response y and model response ŷ through the optimisation
procedure. Learning is an iterative procedure starting from the initial guess of the
parameter vector w and updating it by comparing the models’ response ŷ with the
44 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 3.1. Machine learning algorithm using observation of a physical system D = {X, y} to
learn an unknown mapping function f(x, w). During the learning phase (training), the
prediction error y − yˆ is used to update the parameter vector w and/or function f.
observed response y. Thus in each iteration, the error function, generally the sum of
squared errors, is computed and its value is used to update the parameter vector w. The
learning process is continued until such time as an acceptable degree of accuracy is
achieved (however there are other criteria to terminate training, e.g. using the crossvalidation set, but they are skipped here for simplicity). Once the learning process is
completed, it is assumed that the underlying function f that generated the data has been
discovered (or rather its approximation). This learning process is presented in Figure
3.1. Please note that observed input and response are contaminated by the measurement
errors. Hence the true function that generated the data is never known and cannot be
approximated by the limited data and possibly contaminated with measurement errors.
Generally, learning is done only on the subset of data called training data and the
rest of the data is used to check the generalization capability of the trained model. In
other words, the optimal parameter vector w of the model is determined using the
training data set, while its predictive performance is evaluated by presenting the unseen
input data. The unseen or independent input data is called test (or verification or
validation) data. It is important to note that the test data should not be used during the
training process in any capacity.
If the difference in the error obtained using the test set is markedly different than
that obtained using the training data, then it is likely that the two data sets are not
representative of the same population, or that the model overfits the data. It is observed
especially in cases where learning is performed too long or where training examples are
rare, so that the learner may adjust to very specific random features or noises of the
training data, which have no causal relation to the output. This phenomenon of fitting to
the noise in the training data is called overfitting. In the process of overfitting, the
performance on the training examples still increases while the performance on unseen
data becomes worse. Hence overfitting should be avoided in the training process. There
are different methods to minimise the overfitting in different learning methods, however
one which is common to all learning method is to use the third data set, apart from the
training and test data sets. This third data set is often called cross-validation data set.
The error is monitored in the cross-validation data set while training the model in the
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
45
training data set. The training process is stopped when the error in the cross-validation
data begins to rise even when the training error is still decreasing.
3.4
Application of machine learning in rainfall-runoff modelling
Over the last decade many machine learning techniques have been used extensively in
the field of rainfall-runoff modelling. Among them the artificial neural networks
(ANNs) is most popular and widely used technique. Maier and Dandy (2000) provides
an extensive reviews of ANNs application which was published in international journal
until the end of 1998 (e.g., Hsu et al., 1995 ; Minns and Hall, 1996; Dawson and Wilby,
1998). Recent application of ANN in rainfall-runoff modelling can be found elsewhere
(e.g., Govindaraju and Rao, 2000; Abrahart et al., 2004). Apart from ANN, other
machine learning techniques have been also used, e.g. model trees (Solomatine and
Dulal, 2003), fuzzy rules based system (Bárdossy and Duckstein, 1995), support vector
machines (Dibike et al., 2001; Bray and Han, 2004) genetic programming (Whigham
and Crapper, 2001; Liong et al., 2002).
Machine learning techniques have been also used to improve the accuracy of
prediction/forecasting made by process-based rainfall-runoff model. Generally they are
used to update the output variables by forecasting the error of the process based models.
Shamseldin and O’Connor (2001) and Xiong and O’Connor (2002) used ANNs to
update runoff forecasts of the soil moisture accounting and routing (SMAR) conceptual
model. Brath et al. (2002) used ANNs and nearest neighbor methods to update the
runoff forecasting issued by a ADM conceptual rainfall-runoff model (Franchini, 1996).
Abebe and Price (2003) used ANNs to forecast errors of ADM conceptual model
(Franchini, 1996) and they viewed this approach as a complementary modelling.
Recently Corzo et al. (2009) combined semi-distributed process-based and data-driven
models in flow simulation.
Besides this, machine learning techniques have been also employed to improve the
performance of the data-driven rainfall-runoff models (e.g., Xiong et al., 2004). All
these techniques to update the model predictions can be seen as error modelling
paradigm to reduce the uncertainty of the rainfall-runoff model. However these
techniques do not provide explicitly the uncertainty of the model prediction.
Recently, Shrestha and Solomatine (2006a, 2008), Solomatine and Shrestha (2009),
and Shrestha et al. (2009) developed novel methods to estimate uncertainty of the runoff
prediction by rainfall-runoff models using machine learning techniques. These methods
are the original contribution of the present research and described in the remaining
chapters.
46 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
3.5
Artificial neural networks
An artificial neural network (ANN) is an information processing paradigm that is
inspired by the way biological nervous systems, such as the brain, process information.
A neural network is massively parallel-distributed processor made up of simple
processing units, which has a natural propensity for storing experiential knowledge and
making it available for use. It resembles the human brain in the following two ways: a
neural network acquires knowledge through learning, and a neural network’s knowledge
is stored within inter-neuron connection strengths known as synaptic weights (Haykin,
1999). ANNs are nowadays regarded as universal function approximation due to their
ability to represent both linear and complex non-linear relationships and in their ability
to learn these relationships directly from the data being modelled. They provide a robust
approach to approximating real-valued and, after certain modification, discrete-valued
functions. Although the concept of artificial neuron was first introduced by McCulloch
and Pitts (1943), research into application of ANNs has blossomed since the
introduction of the backpropogation training algorithm for feedforward ANNs. It was
suggested by P. Werbos in 1974 (Werbos, 1974)), but that became widely known only
after publication of the edited 2-volume work by Rumelhart et al. (1986). Nowadays
they have been applied successfully in many fields for control, classification, pattern
recognition, modelling dynamic systems and time series forecasting.
∑
f (⋅)
Figure 3.2. Schematic diagram of an artificial neuron.
ANNs consist of a large number of simple processing elements called neurons or
nodes. Each neuron is then connected to other neurons by means of direct links, each
being associated with a weight that represents information being used by the network in
its effort to solve the problem. The neural network can be in general characterised by
architecture (the patterns of connection between the neurons), training or learning
algorithm (the methods of determining the weights on the connections) and activation
function. The architecture of a typical neural network with a single neuron is shown in
Figure 3.2. It consists of five basic elements:
1. Input nodes for receiving input signals x1, …, xp;
2. A set of connecting links (often called synapses), each of which is characterised
by a weight wij;
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
47
3. Aggregating function to sum the input signals;
4. Activation function that calculates the activation level of the neuron; and
5. Output nodes y1, …, yl
The processing of each neuron is carried out in two steps: (i) summing of the
weighted input signals, and (ii) applying activation function to the sum for limiting the
amplitude of the output of a neuron. Mathematically it can be described by the
following two equations:
p
u j = ∑ wij xi
(3.1)
i =1
y j = f (u j + b j )
(3.2)
where wij is the weight connecting the input i to the neuron j. The effective incoming
signal uj and bias bj is passed through activation function f(.) to produce the output
signal yj. The main difference between the neurons in common use lies in the type of the
activation function. Their functional form determines the response of a node to the total
input signal, however there is one thing common among these activation functions –
they all restrict the input signals to certain limits. Some commonly used activation
functions are linear, binary, sigmoid and tangent hyperbolic.
3.5.1
Learning in ANN
In order to generate an output vector y = (y1, …, yn) from an ANN that is as close as
possible to the target vector t = (t1, …, tn), a training (learning) process, also called
learning is employed to find optimal weight matrices W and bias vectors b, that
minimise a predetermined error function usually sum squared error that has the form:
J=
1 l n
∑ ∑ eik 2
2 k =1 i =1
(3.3)
where l is the number of output nodes, eik is the kth output error for the ith example. The
error function of equation (3.3) is the aggregation of the errors over all of the output
nodes. The factor ½ in equation (3.3) appears when the assumption of normality of
model errors, traditional for statistical models, is made (actually not used here); it also
convenient to leave it to simplify the subsequent derivations resulting from the
minimization of J with respect to the weights of the network. Several algorithms are
known to minimise the error function J based on the error signal eik, such that the actual
response of each output node in the network is close to the desired response for that
neuron. Gradient descent is one of such algorithms to determine a weight vector that
minimizes J by starting with an arbitrary initial weight vector, and then repeatedly
updating it in small steps by computing the error function. At each step, the weight
48 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
vector is altered in the direction that produces the steepest descent along the error
surface. This process continues until the minimum (or small enough) error is reached, or
until a predefined number of steps are made.
The direction of the steepest descent along the error surface can be found by
computing the gradient of the error surface. The gradient of the error surface is a vector
that always point toward the direction of the maximum J change and with a magnitude
equal to the slope of the tangent of the error surface. The training rule for the gradient
descent is given by:
w (iter + 1) = w (iter ) − η∇J (iter )
(3.4)
where iter is iteration number, η is a positive constant called learning rate which
determines the step size in the search, ∇J(iter) denotes the gradient of the error surface
at the iteration iter. Traditionally the difference operator is used to estimate the gradient
which is straightforward but not very practicable. Fortunately, an elegant approach to
estimate the gradient was proposed as follow:
∇J (iter ) = −e(iter ) x(iter )
(3.5)
The equation (3.5) tells us that an instantaneous estimate of the gradient at iteration iter
is simply the product of the current input to the weight times the current error.
Combining equation (3.4) and (3.5), the steepest descent equation becomes:
w (iter + 1) = w (iter ) + η e(iter ) x(iter )
3.5.2
(3.6)
Multi-layer perceptron network
Multi-Layer Perceptron (MLP) is one of the most popular and successful neural
network architectures. The MLP consists of an input layer, an output layers and at least
one intermediate layer between input and output layer. The first layer is the input layer,
which receives the input signal. The intermediate layers are known as hidden layers,
which do not have direct connection to the outer world. The last layer is the output layer
at which the overall mapping of the network input is made available and thus represents
the model output. The nodes in one layer are connected to those in the next, but not to
those in the same layer. Thus, the information or signal flow in the network is restricted
to a flow, layer by layer, from the input to output through hidden layers. Figure 3.3
shows the example of a three layer MLP with one hidden layer.
Training (i.e. computing the weights) of the MLP networks is done with the backpropagation algorithm which is the most popular algorithm capable of capturing a
variety of non-linear error surfaces. It is essentially a gradient descent technique that
minimises the network error function. The back propagation algorithm involves two
steps: the first step is feed forward pass, in which the input vectors of all the training
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
49
Figure 3.3. A three layer MLP architecture.
examples are fed to the network and the output vectors are calculated. The performance
of the network is evaluated using an error function that is based on the target and
network outputs. After the error is computed, the back propagation step starts, in which
the error is propagated back to adjust the network weights and bias. The iteration
continues until the outputs of the network will match with the targets with the desired
degree of accuracy. In a typical application, the weight update loop in back propagation
may be iterated thousands of times. A variety of termination condition can be used to
halt the iteration. One may choose to halt after a fixed number of iterations or once the
error on the training examples falls below some threshold or once the error on separate
validation set of examples meets some criterion. The choice of termination or stopping
criterion is important and discussed by many authors (see, e.g., Mitchell, 1997).
Although the back propagation method does not guarantee convergence to an
optimal solution since local minima may exist, it appears in practice that it leads to
solutions in almost every case. In fact, standard multi-layer, feed-forward networks with
only one hidden layer have been found capable of approximating any measurable
function to any desired degree of accuracy. Detailed description of the back propagation
algorithm can be found in Haykin (1999), Principe et al. (1999) among others.
3.6
Model trees
Model trees (or M5 model trees) are relatively new machine learning technique
introduced by Quinlan (1992) who also suggested the algorithm that uses information
theory to build them – the M5 algorithm. This is effectively a piece-wise linear
regression model. A complex modelling problem can be solved by dividing it into a
number of simple tasks and building simple model for each of them. In other words, the
50 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
data set is divided into a number of subsets for each of which separate specialized
model is built. These models are often called experts or modules; and the combination
of experts is called a modular model, or a committee machine.
There are several ways to classify a committee machine (see, e.g., Haykin, 1999;
Solomatine and Siek, 2006). Committee machines can be often classified based on how
the input space is split. According to this way, it is possible to classify committee
machine into four categories (Solomatine, 2005): (i) hard splitting where individual
experts are trained on particular subspaces of data independently and use only one of
them to predict the output for a new input vector, e.g. model trees, regression trees
(Breiman et al., 1984); (ii) hard splitting – soft combination where outputs are combined
by ‘soft’ weighting scheme; (iii) statistically-driven soft splitting, used in mixtures of
experts (Jacobs et al., 1991) and boosting schemes (Freund and Schapire, 1996;
Shrestha and Solomatine, 2006b); and (iv) no-split option leading to ensembles; the
models are trained on the whole training set and their outputs are combined using a
weighting scheme where the model weights typically depend on model accuracy, e.g.
bagging (Breiman, 1996).
A model tree (MT), as mentioned previously, belongs to a class of committee
machine which uses the ‘hard’ (i.e. yes-no) splits of input space into regions
progressively narrowing the regions of the input space. Thus model tree is a hierarchical
(or tree-like) modular model which has splitting rules in non-terminal nodes and the
expert models at the leaves of the tree. In M5 model trees the expert models are often
simple linear regression equation derived by fitting to the non-intersecting data subsets.
Once the expert models are formed recursively in the leaves of the hierarchical tree,
then prediction with the new input vector consists of the two steps: (i) classifying the
input vector to one of the subspace by following the tree; and (ii) running the
corresponding expert model. Brief description of model tree algorithm is presented
below.
The M5 algorithm for inducing a model tree was developed by Quinlan (1992).
Assume we are given a set of N data pairs {xi, yi}, i = 1, …, n, denoted by D. Here x is
p dimensional input vector (i.e. x1, …, xp) and y is target. Thus, a pair of input vector
and target value constitutes the example, and the aim of the building model tree is to
map the input vector to the corresponding target by generating simple linear equations
at the leaves of the trees. The first step in building a model tree is to determine which
input variable (often called attribute) is the best to split the training D. The splitting
criterion (i.e. selection of the input variable and splitting value of the input variable) is
based on treating the standard deviation of the target values that reach a node as a
measure of the error at that node, and calculating the expected reduction in error as a
result of testing each input variable at that node. The expected error reduction, which is
called standard deviation reduction, SDR, is calculated by
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
51
(3.7)
T
SDR = sd (T ) − ∑ i sd (Ti )
i T
where, T represents set of examples that reach the splitting node, T1, T2,…, represents
the subset of T that results from splitting the node according to the chosen input
variable, sd represents standard deviation, |Ti|/|T| is the weight that represents the
fraction of the examples belonging to subset Ti.
After examining all possible splits, M5 chooses the one that maximises SDR. The
splitting of the training examples is done recursively to the subsets. The splitting
process terminates when the target values of all the examples that reach a node vary
only slightly, or only a few instances remain. This relentless division often produces
over-elaborate structures that must be pruned back, for instance by replacing a subtree
with a leaf. In the final stage, ‘smoothing’ is performed to compensate for the sharp
discontinuities that will inevitably occur between the adjacent linear models at the
leaves of the pruned tree. In smoothing, the outputs from adjacent linear equations are
updated in such a way that their difference for the neighboring input vectors belonging
to the different leaf models will be smaller. Details of the pruning and smoothing
process can be found in Witten and Frank (2000). Figure 3.4 presents an example of
model tree.
As compared to other machine learning techniques, model tree learns efficiently and
can tackle tasks with very high dimensionality—up to hundreds of variables. The main
advantage of model tree is that results are transparent and interpretable. Recently two
other versions of M5 algorithm were proposed by Solomatine and Siek (2006): M5opt
that allows for deeper optimization of trees, and the M5flex that gives a modeller more
possibilities to decide about how the data space is split in the process of building
regression models. During the last years several authors have shown the effectiveness of
the M5 machine learning method in rainfall-runoff modelling (see, e.g., Solomatine and
Dulal, 2003; Solomatine and Siek, 2006; Stravs and Brilly, 2007).
4
X2
Regression and M5 model tree
Model 2
Model 3
•x2 > 2
3
Model 1
Yes
2
Yes
Model 4
Model 6
x2
• < 3.5
1
Model 5
1
2
3
4
5
Y (output)
Figure 3.4. Example of model trees.
6
•x1 > 2.5
X1
Yes
Model 1
No
Model 3
No
Model 2
No
Yes
•x1 < 4
No
•x2 < 1
Model 4
Yes
Model 5
No
Model 6
52 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
3.7
Instance based learning
Many machine learning methods including those described in sections 3.5 and 3.6 are
model-based methods meaning that they construct explicitly the model to predict or
classify the output as soon as the training examples are provided. After training, the
model is used for predictions and the data are generally discarded. In contrast, memorybased method - instance based learning (IBL) simply stores the presented training data
and postpone using it until a new instance or input has to be predicted or classified.
When a new input vector is presented to the model, a subset of similar instances is
retrieved from the previously stored examples and their corresponding outputs are used
to predict or classify the output for the new query vector (instance). IBL methods, in
fact, construct a local approximation to the modeled function that applies in the
neighborhood of the new query instance (input vector) encountered, and never construct
an approximation designed to perform well over the entire input space. Therefore, even
a very complex target function can be described by constructing it from a collection of
much less complex local approximations.
IBL algorithms have several advantages: they are quite simple but robust learning
algorithms, can tolerate noise and irrelevant attributes, and can represent both
probabilistic and overlapping concepts and naturally exploit inter-attribute relationships
(Aha et al., 1991). However, they also have disadvantages. One of them is that the
computational cost of predicting or classifying new instances can be very high since all
computations takes place when the new instances have to be classified or predicted
rather than when the training examples are first encountered. The computational cost
increases with the number of training data and dimension of the input data and has order
of |T| x p, where T is the training set and p is the dimension of the input vector. Another
disadvantage is that since all attributes of the examples are considered when attempting
to retrieve similar training examples from the stored database, the examples that are
truly most similar may well be a large distance apart if the target variable only depends
on only a few of the many input variables.
The most common IBL methods used in numeric prediction are k-nearest neighbour
method and locally weighted regression. The latter which was used in this study is
described briefly in subsection 3.7.1. For the detailed description of IBL methods, the
readers are referred to Aha et al. (1991). Application of these methods in rainfall-runoff
modelling was recently reported in Solomatine et al. (2006, 2008).
3.7.1 Locally weighted regression
Locally weighted regression (LWR) is a memory-based method that performs a
regression around a point xq of interest (often called a query point) using only training
data that are “local” to that point. The training examples are assigned weights according
to their distance to the query instance, and regression equations are generated using the
weighted data. The phrase “locally weighted regression” is called local because the
function is approximated based on data near query point, weighted because the
contribution of each training example is weighted by its distance from the query point.
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
53
The target function f in the neighbourhood surrounding the query point xq can be
approximated using a linear function, a quadratic function, neural network, etc.
A number of distance-based weighting schemes can be used in LWR (Scott, 1992).
A common choice is to compute the weight wi of each instance xi according to the
inverse of their Euclidean distance d(xi, xq) from the query instance xq as given by
wi = K (d (x q , xi )) = (d (x q , xi ))−1
(3.8)
where K (.) is typically referred to as the kernel function. The Euclidean distance d(xi,
xq) is define as
p
d ( xi , x q ) =
∑ (ar (xi ) − ar (xq ))2
(3.9)
r =1
where an arbitrary instance x can be described by the feature vector
< a1 (x), ..., a p (x) > and ar(xi) denotes the value of the rth attribute of the instance xi.
Alternatively, instead of weighting the data directly, the model errors for each
instance used in the regression equation are weighted to form the total error criterion
C(q) to be minimized:
T
C (q ) = ∑ L ( f ( xi , β ) , yi ) K (d (xi , x q ))
(3.10)
i =1
where f (xi, β) is the regression model; L(.) is loss or error function (typically the sum of
squared differences ( yi − yˆi )2 between the target yi and its estimated yˆi values), β is a
vector of parameters or coefficient of the model to be identified. Note that total error
criterion is summed over the entire set T of the training examples. However there are
other forms of the error criteria such as loss function over just the k nearest neighbours
(Mitchell, 1997). In locally weighted regression, the function f is a linear function of the
form:
f (xi , β ) = β0 + β1a1 (xi ) + ... + β p a p (xi )
(3.11)
Cleveland and Loader (1994) among other addressed the issue of choosing
weighting (kernel) functions: it should be maximum at zero distance, and the function
should decay smoothly as the distance increases. Discontinuities in the weighting
functions lead to discontinuities in the predictions, since the training points cross the
discontinuity as the query changes. Yet another possibility to improve the accuracy of
LWR is to use the so-called smoothing, or bandwidth parameter that scales the distance
function by dividing it by this parameter. One way to choose it is to set it to the distance
to the kth nearest training instance, so that its value becomes smaller as the volume of
54 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
training data increases. Generally, an appropriate smoothing parameter can be found
using cross-validation.
3.8
Clustering methods
The previous sections 3.5-3.7 present supervise learning methods in where the training
data consist of pairs of input vectors, and target outputs. In contrast, clustering is an
unsupervised learning method i.e. the target output is not known. In other words,
training data in clustering consists of only unlabeled input vectors. Without knowing the
target outputs of the data set, the best that can be done is to explore the data, to find
natural groups within the data, and to derive some important features or characteristics
of the groups.
The objective of cluster analysis is the attribution of objects to different groups, or
more precisely, the partitioning of data set into subsets (clusters), so that the data in
each subset share some common trait – often proximity according to some defined
similarly measure. There are basically three types of clustering algorithms - exclusive,
overlapping, and hierarchical.
Algorithms of the first type group the data in such a way that each data point
belongs to a definite cluster and it could not be included in another cluster. The example
of this type of clustering is K-means clustering.
Algorithms of the second type, result in the overlapping clusters and typically use
fuzzy sets (Zadeh, 1965) to cluster data, so that each data point belongs to several
clusters with some degree so called fuzzy membership in the range [0, 1]. The most
known method of fuzzy clustering is the fuzzy C-means (Bezdek, 1981). There are also
non-fuzzy clustering methods leading to overlapping clusters, such as those based on
the mixture of Gaussians.
Hierarchical clustering finds successive clusters using previously established
clusters. Such algorithm can be agglomerative (“bottom-up”) or divisive (“top-down”).
An agglomerative algorithm begins with each element as a separate cluster and merges
them into successively larger clusters. A divisive algorithm begins with the whole set
and proceed to divide it into successively smaller clusters.
Among all these algorithms the most widely used are K-means and fuzzy C-means
methods and they are briefly described in the following subsections.
3.8.1 K-means clustering
K-means clustering algorithm aims at partitioning a set of given data matrix X = {x1, ...,
xn}, where each data point xj is a P-dimensional vector, into c clusters Ci by minimizing
an objective function J:
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
c
J =∑
∑
i =1 j∈Ci
where
.
x j − vi
55
(3.12)
2
is the Euclidean norm, vi is the coordinate (in P-dimension) of centre of ith
cluster. The idea is to find the best partitions of N samples by c clusters Ci such that the
total distance between the clustered samples and their respective centres (i.e. total
variance) is minimised.
K-means algorithm is very simple. It starts by selecting c points as initial cluster
centres either at random or using some heuristic data. Instances are assigned to their
closest centre according to the Euclidean distance function. Next the centroid or mean
of all instances in each cluster is calculated. These centroids are taken to be the new
centres for their respective clusters. Finally the whole process is repeated with the new
cluster centres until the value of J becomes stable and consequently the centres stop to
move.
3.8.2 Fuzzy C-means clustering
The most known method of fuzzy clustering is the fuzzy C-means (FCM), initially
proposed by Dunn (1973) and generalized by Bezdek (1981). FCM algorithm attempts
to partition a set of given data X = {x1, ..., xn} where each data point xk is a vector in Rp.
The partitioned space Mfc takes the form of
⎧ Pi , j ∈ R c×n : μi, j ∈ [0,1] ∀i, j
⎫
⎪⎪
⎪⎪
n
M fc = ⎨ c
⎬
⎪∑ μi , j = 1 ∀j , 0 < ∑ μi, j < n ∀i ⎪
⎪⎭
j =1
⎩⎪ i =1
(3.13)
where c is the number of clusters, n is the number of data points, P is the partition
matrix that contains the membership values μi,j of each data j for each cluster i. The aim
of the FCM algorithm is to find an optimal fuzzy C-means partition that minimizes the
following objective function:
c
n
J m ( P, V ) = ∑ ∑ μim, j x j − vi
2
(3.14)
i =1 j =1
where V = (v1, ..., vc) is a matrix of unknown cluster centres (prototypes) vi ∈ ℜp, and
the weighting exponent m in [1, ∞] is a constant that influences the membership values.
With fuzzy C-means, the centroid of a cluster is the mean of all points, weighted by
their degree of belonging to the cluster:
56 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
n
vi = ∑ μim, j x j
j =1
n
(3.15)
∑ μim, j
j =1
The degree of belonging i.e. the membership degree μi,j is related to the inverse of the
distance between the data point xj and the cluster centre vi:
μi, j
⎡ ⎛
⎢ c ⎜ x j − vi
= ⎢∑ ⎜
⎢ k =1 ⎜ x j − v k
⎢⎣ ⎝
⎞
⎟
2⎟
⎟
⎠
2
2 /( m −1) ⎤ −1
⎥
⎥
⎥
⎥⎦
(3.16)
Here the distance is fuzzyfied with a real parameter m > 1 and normalised so that their
sum is 1. For m equal to 2, this is equivalent to normalising the coefficient linearly to
make their sum 1. When m is close to 1, then cluster centre closest to the point is given
much more weight than the others, and the algorithm is similar to K-means.
Working of the fuzzy C-means algorithm is very similar to that of K-means
algorithm, and partitioning is carried out through an iterative optimisation of the
objective function of equation (3.15), with the update of membership μi,j and the cluster
centres vi. The algorithm is composed of the following steps:
1. Input:
• Data X = {x1, ..., xn}, number of clusters c, fuzzification parameter m (with
m > 1) and small positive constant ε for stopping criteria
2. Output:
• Cluster centre vi and matrix of membership values P.
3. Initialise:
• Iteration t = 1
• Generate randomly initial cluster centres vi(t) (i=1, …, c)
• Compute matrix P(t) of membership values μi,j using equation (3.16) ∀j
4. Iterate until | P(t+1) -P(t)|> ε
• t=t+1.
• Given the membership value μi,j update the cluster centres vi(t+1) using
equation (3.15).
• Update the membership value μi,j(t+1) with newly computed cluster centres
using equation (3.16).
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
3.8.3
57
Validity measures
Since we usually have little information about the data structure in advance, a crucial
step in the clustering is determining the optimal number of clusters. This has turned out
to be a rather difficult problem, as it depends on the structure of the cluster. Without the
prior information, a common method is the comparison of partitions resulting from
different number of clusters. Different validity measures are reported in the literature to
find the optimal number of clusters such as the partition coefficient, PC (Bezdek, 1981),
partition index, SC, separation index, S (Bensaid et al., 1996), Xie-Beni’s index, XB
(Xie and Beni, 1991). Since none of these measures is reliable and perfect, the optimal
number of clusters obtained through the validity measures has to be checked through the
final results of application where the clustering technique was applied (Shrestha and
Solomatine, 2008).
Partition index (SC) is the ratio of sum of compactness and separation of the
clusters. This is given by:
n
c
SC (c ) = ∑
∑ μim, j
i =1
j =1
c
ni
∑
x j − vi
(3.17)
2
v k − vi
k =1
2
Lower value of SC indicates a better partition. On the contrary of partition index,
separation index (S) uses a minimum distance separation for partition validity and is
given by
c
n
∑ ∑ μi2, j
S (c ) =
i =1 j =1
x j − vi
2
(3.18)
2
n min ( v k − vi )
k ≠i
Xie and Beni's index (XB) aims to quantify the ratio of the total variation within clusters
and the separation of clusters and is given by:
c
n
∑ ∑ μim, j
XB (c) =
i =1 j =1
x j − vi
2
(3.19)
2
n min ( x j − vi )
i≠ j
The optimal number of clusters should minimize the value of XB index.
Beside the number of clusters, an important step in any clustering is to select a
suitable distance measure, which will determine how the similarity of any two data
58 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
points is calculated. This will influence the shape of the clusters, as some points may be
close to one another according to one distance and further away according to another.
The common distance function is the Euclidean distance or the squared Euclidean
distance.
3.9
Selection of input variables
In machine learning techniques, the selection of appropriate model inputs is extremely
important as they contain the important information about the complex (linear or nonlinear) relationship with the model outputs. The objective of the input variable selection
is three-fold (Guyon and Elisseeff, 2003): improving the prediction performance of the
predictor (here machine learning models), providing faster and more cost effective
predictors, and providing a better understanding of the underlying process that
generated the data. Any input variable selection method should follow the Occam’s
Razor principle to build as simple a model as possible that still achieves some
acceptable level of the performance on the training data. Unlike the physically based
models, the sets of input variables that influence the system output are not known a
priori. Therefore the selection of the appropriate model inputs that will allow machine
learning techniques to map to the desired output vector successfully is not a trivial task.
Usually, not all of the potential input variables will be equally informative since some
may be correlated, noisy or have no significant relationship with the output variables
being modeled. Irrelevant and redundant variables also may confuse the learning
machines by helping to obscure the distribution of the small set of truly relevant input
variables (Koller and Sahami, 1996).
Bowden et al. (2005) reviewed some of the input variables selection methods used in
water resources ANN applications. These methods are also applicable to other
supervised machine learning methods described in this chapter. These methods can be
broadly classified into the three groups:
A priori or domain knowledge: The importance of using such knowledge in selecting
appropriate input variables is obvious. A good level of understanding of the system (e.g.
hydrological system for rainfall-runoff modelling) being modelled is very important in
order to select the appropriate model inputs (ASCE, 2000). This would help in avoiding
loss of information that may result if key input variables are omitted, and also prevent
inclusion of spurious input variables that tend to confuse the training process (Sudheer
et al., 2002). Even in the other methods described below, some form of domain
knowledge is still used. Although domain knowledge is often used in machine learning
methods to select the input variables, it is dependent on an expert’s knowledge and
hence, is very subjective and case dependent.
Analytical and visual techniques: When the relationship to be modelled is not well
understood, then analytical techniques such as correlation and mutual information
analysis are employed. These techniques can be used to determine the strength of the
relationship between the input time series variables and the output time series at various
lags. While correlation analysis is used to find the linear relationship between the
Chapter 3. Machine learning techniques
59
variables, mutual information analysis is used to determine linear or non-linear the
dependencies. Correlation analysis consists of computing cross correlation between the
input vector xi and the output variable y. In case of time series variable, it is often
required to compute a) correlation of lagged vector of xi with the output y; and b)
autocorrelation of the output vector y. The former measures the dependency of the
output variable to the previous values of the input variables. The latter provides the
information on the dependency of output variable on its past values.
Correlation coefficient (CoC) between input vector xt and output vector yt, t=1, ..., n
is given by:
n
∑ ( x i − x )( y i − y )
CoC =
i =1
n
n
i =1
i =1
(3.20)
∑ ( x i − x )2 ∑ ( y i − y )2
where x is the mean of x. The maximum value of CoC is 1 for complete positive
correlation and the minimum value of it is -1 for complete negative correlation. A value
of CoC close to zero indicates that the variables are uncorrelated.
Mutual information which is based on Shannon’s entropy (Shannon, 1948) is used to
investigate linear and non-linear dependencies and lag effects (in time series data)
between the variables. The mutual information is measure of information available from
one set of data having knowledge of another set of data. The average mutual
information AMI between two variables X and Y is given by
⎡ PXY ( xi , y j ) ⎤
AMI= ∑ PXY ( xi , y j ) log 2 ⎢
⎥
⎢⎣ PX ( xi ) PY ( y j ) ⎥⎦
i, j
(3.21)
where PX(x) and PY(y) are the marginal probability density functions of X and Y,
respectively, and PXY(x,y) is the joint probability density functions of X and Y. If there
is no dependence between X and Y, then by definition the joint probability density
PXY(x,y) would be equal to the product of the marginal densities (PX(x) PY(y)). In this
case, AMI would be zero (the ratio of the joint and marginal densities in equation (3.21)
being one, giving the logarithm a value of zero). A high value of AMI would indicate a
strong dependence between two variables. The key to accurate estimate of the AMI is
the accurate estimation of the marginal and joint probabilities density in equation (3.21)
from a finite set of examples. The most widely used approach is estimation of the
probability densities by histogram with the fixed bin width. More stable, efficient and
robust probability density estimator is based on the use of kernel density estimation
techniques (Sharma, 2000).
Heuristic approaches: Several machine learning models are trained using different
subsets of inputs, and the inputs which give the best performance are considered as the
60 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
plausible inputs for the model. Other commonly used heuristic approaches are the
stepwise forward and backward selection. The former approach starts by finding the
best single inputs and considering it for the final model. In each subsequent step, given
a set of selected inputs, the input that improves the model’s performance is added to the
final model. The latter approach starts with a set of all inputs, and subsequently
eliminates the input that reduces the performance the least. The main disadvantage of
the heuristic approaches being trial-and-error is that they are computationally intensive
(Bowden et al., 2005). All the mentioned methods are sometimes called “model-based”
since they require running the model.
In the light of non-linear and complex relationships between the variables, the input
selection from the finite data sets based on only one method does not provide guarantee
that they will find the globally optimal sets of inputs. Intuitively, the preferred approach
for determining appropriate inputs and lags of inputs involves a combination of (some
of the) above methods, and it was used in this thesis.
Chapter 4
Machine Learning in
Prediction of Parameter
Uncertainty: MLUE Method
This chapter presents a novel approach to model and predict parametric
uncertainty of rainfall-runoff model. The most widely used method to analyse
such uncertainty (Monte Carlo simulation) involves multiple model runs. The
computational load may prohibit the use of such method for real-time predictions
of uncertainty valid for particular combinations of the input and state variables
(hydrometeorological conditions). Machine learning techniques allow for the
building of surrogate models for the results of such simulations; these models are
fast and can be easily used in operation for real-time predictions of parameter
uncertainty. The proposed method is referred to as MLUE (Machine Learning in
parameter Uncertainty estimation).
4.1
Introduction
As mentioned in Chapter 1, hydrological models, in particular rainfall-runoff models,
are simplified representations of the reality and aggregate the complex, spatially and
temporally distributed physical processes through relatively simple mathematical
equations with parameters. The parameters of the rainfall-runoff models can be
estimated in two ways (Johnston and Pilgrim, 1976). First, their values are estimated
from available knowledge or measurements of the physical process, provided the model
parameters realistically represent the measurable physical process. In the second
approach, parameter values are estimated using input and output measurements, where
the parameters do not represent directly measurable entities or when it is too costly to
measure them in the field. Conceptual rainfall-runoff models usually contain several
such parameters, which cannot be directly measured. The process of estimating the
parameters is called model calibration and it has received increased scientific interest in
the last two decades (e.g., Duan et al., 1992; Yapo et al., 1996; Solomatine et al., 1999;
Madsen, 2000). The calibration technique adjusts the parameters of the model in such a
way that the behaviour of the model approximates as closely and consistently as
62 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
possible the observed responses of the hydrological system over some historical period
of time. Traditional calibration procedures, which involve a manual adjustment of the
parameter values, are labour-intensive, and their success is strongly dependent on the
experience of the modeller. Because of the time consuming nature of manual
calibration, there has been a great deal of research into the development of automatic
calibration methods. Automatic methods for model calibration seek to take advantage of
the speed and power of computers, while being relatively objective and easier to
implement than manual methods (Vrugt et al., 2005).
While considerable attention has been given to the development of automatic
calibration methods which aim to find successfully the single best set of values for the
parameter vector, much less attention has been given to a realistic assessment of
parameter uncertainty in hydrological models. Since the model never perfectly
represents the system, a single set of the parameter values obtained from the calibration
may not represent a true parameter set, particularly as the data used for calibration is
subjected to measurement errors. Hence, the model prediction based on the single
parameter set may have considerable uncertainty. Rather, it is required to have a
probability distribution of the parameters which can describe the uncertainty associated
with the parameter estimation, and then such parameter uncertainty can be propagated
through the model to deduce a probability distribution of the model output.
4.2
Monte Carlo techniques for parameter uncertainty analysis
The uncertainty analysis of rainfall-runoff models has been received special attention in
recent years. Several uncertainty analysis methods have been developed to propagate
the uncertainty through these models and to derive meaningful uncertainty bounds of
the model simulations. We presented these methods in Chapter 2. In this chapter we
discuss the Monte Carlo based uncertainty analysis methods, which have been mostly
used for parameter uncertainty analysis.
Monte Carlo (MC) simulation techniques have been applied for uncertainty analysis
very successfully in the last decades in hydrological sciences, and have lead the
quantification of the model output uncertainty resulting from uncertain model
parameters, input data or model structure. The technique involves random sampling
from the distributions of uncertain inputs and the model is run successively until a
desired statistically significant distribution of outputs is obtained. The main advantage
of the MC simulation based uncertainty analysis is its general applicability; however,
methods of this type require a large number of samples (or model runs), and their
applicability is sometimes limited to simple models. In the case of computationally
intensive models, the time and resources required by these methods could be
prohibitively expensive.
A version of the MC simulation method was introduced under the term “generalised
likelihood uncertainty estimation” (GLUE) by Beven and Binley (1992). GLUE is one
of the popular methods for analysing parameter uncertainty in hydrological modelling
and has been widely used over the past ten years to analyse and estimate predictive
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
63
uncertainty, particularly in hydrological applications (see, e.g., Freer et al., 1996; Beven
and Freer, 2001; Montanari, 2005). Users of GLUE are attracted by its simple
understandable ideas, relative ease of implementation and use, and its ability to handle
different error structures and models without major modifications to the method itself.
Despite its popularity, there are theoretical and practical issues related with the GLUE
method reported in the literature. For instance, Mantovan and Todini (2006) argue that
GLUE is inconsistent with the Bayesian inference processes such that it leads to an
overestimation of uncertainty, both for the parameter uncertainty estimation and the
predictive uncertainty estimation. For issues regarding inconsistency and other criteria,
readers are referred to the citation above and the subsequent discussions in the Journal
of Hydrology in 2007 and 2008. A practical problem with the GLUE method is that, for
models with a large number of parameters, the sample size from the respective
parameter distributions must be very large in order to achieve a reliable estimate of
model uncertainties (Kuczera and Parent, 1998). In order to reduce the number of
samples (i.e., model runs) a hybrid genetic algorithm and artificial neural network has
been applied by Khu and Werner (2003). Similarly, Blasone et al. (2008) used adaptive
Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling within the GLUE methodology to improve the
sampling of the high probability density region of the parameter space. Another
practical issue is that in many cases the percentage of observations falling within the
prediction limits provided by GLUE is much lower than the given confidence level used
to produce these prediction limits (see, e.g., Montanari, 2005). Xiong and O’Connor
(2008) modified the GLUE method to improve the efficiency of the GLUE prediction
limits in enveloping the observed discharge.
The MC based method for uncertainty analysis of the outputs of hydrological
models is very flexible, conceptually simple and straightforward, but becomes
impractical in real time applications when there is little time to perform the uncertainty
analysis because of the large number of model runs required. For such situations
alternative approximation methods have been developed, referred to as moment
propagation techniques, which are able to calculate directly the first and second
moments without the application of an MC simulation (see, e.g., Rosenblueth, 1981;
Harr, 1989; Protopapas and Bras, 1990; Melching, 1995; Kunstmann et al., 2002). A
number of research studies have been conducted to reduce the number of MC
simulation runs effectively, for instance, Latin hypercube sampling (see, e.g., McKay et
al., 1979). Recently, new methods have been developed to improve the efficiency of the
MC based uncertainty analysis method. Examples of such methods are the delayed
rejection adaptive Metropolis method (Haario et al., 2006), and the differential
evolution adaptive Metropolis method, DREAM (Vrugt et al., 2008b). In these
Metropolis uncertainty analysis methods, the comparison of the statistics of multiple
sample chains in parallel would provide a formal solution to assess how many model
runs are required to reach convergence and obtain stable statistics of the model output
and parameters. However, it is well recognized that traditional MC based simulation
still lacks a well-established convergence criterion to terminate the simulations at a
desired level of accuracy (e.g., Ballio and Guadagnini, 2004).
64 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
4.3
Problems attached to Monte Carlo based uncertainty analysis
methods
The MC based methods for uncertainty analysis of the outputs of the process models are
very flexible, robust, conceptually simple and straightforward, yet there are a few
practical problems associated with the implementation of the methods:
The random sampling from a probability distribution in standard MC simulation is
not very efficient. The convergence of the MC simulation is quite slow with the order
O( 1/ s ) and a larger number of model runs is needed to establish a reliable estimate of
uncertainties, where s is the number of simulations. This implies that, in order to
increase accuracy of estimation by a factor of 2, one needs to increase the number of
MC simulations by a factor of 4.
The number of simulations increases exponentially with the dimension of the
parameter vector O(np), where p is the dimension of parameter vector, and n is the
number of samples required for each parameter. The total number of parameter
combinations required to cover the full space of uncertainty quickly becomes
prohibitive as more parameters are considered. Failure to maintain an adequate
sampling density may result in undersampling probable regions of the parameter space
(Kuczera and Parent, 1998). For example, if we wish to sample, on average, 5 points in
each dimension in a 10 dimensional parameter space, we would need 510 MC
simulations. Considering a 0.001 second CPU time for a single run of the model for one
time step, the total CPU time for 510 MC simulations would be 1 day, which is
impracticable in many cases (e.g., real time flood forecasting system).
4.4
Machine learning emulator in uncertainty analysis
As mentioned above, a number of new methods have been developed to improve the
efficiency of MC based uncertainty analysis methods and yet these methods still require
a considerable number of model runs in both offline and operational mode to produce
reliable and meaningful uncertainty estimation. In this thesis we use a different
approach to uncertainty analysis. Our approach is to use machine learning techniques to
emulate the MC simulation results. The proposed method is referred to as the MLUE
(Machine Learning in parameter Uncertainty Estimation).
The proposed technique to emulate the complex model by a simple model is an
example of surrogate modelling, or meta-modelling - an approach widely used when
running the complex model is computationally expensive. For example, O’Hagan
(2006) used the Gaussian process emulator to emulate a complex simulation model. Li
et al. (2006) introduced a new approach to meta modelling whereby a sequential
technique is used to construct and simultaneously update mutually dependent metamodels for multiresponse, high-fidelity deterministic simulations. Young and Ratto
(2009) proposed a dynamic emulation model to emulate a complex high order model by
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
65
a low order data based mechanistic model. The novelty of our method is in the
following:
1. The MLUE method explicitly builds an emulator for the MC uncertainty results
while other methods build an emulator for a single simulation model.
2. The MLUE emulator is based on machine learning techniques, while other
techniques are Bayesian (e.g., O’Hagan, 2006), or use nonlinear differential
equations (e.g., the data based mechanistic model of Young (1998)).
4.5
Methodology
The idea of using statistical and, in general, machine learning models, to improve model
accuracy is not new. Typically, information about model errors is used to train machine
learning error correctors (Abebe and Price, 2003) or to build more sophisticated
machine learning models of model uncertainty (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2006a, 2008).
In this chapter, we extend this idea towards building a model (referred to as U)
encapsulating the information about the realizations of the process (e.g., hydrological)
model M output generated by MC simulations. Instead of predicting a single value of
the model error, as done in the most error correction procedures, we aim to predict the
distribution of the output of M generated by MC based simulations. Thus, the method
allows one to predict the uncertainty bounds of the model M prediction without rerunning the MC simulations when new input data is observed and fed into M, while the
MC based uncertainty analysis methods require a fresh set of MC runs for each analysis.
For instance, GLUE will typically require a fresh set of MC runs from the behavioural
models to produce the prediction intervals for the model output for each time step with
the new data input.
The basic idea here is to estimate the uncertainty of the model M output assuming
that uncertainty at a particular time step depends on the corresponding forcing input
data and the model states (e.g., rainfall, antecedent rainfall, soil moisture etc.). We also
assume that the uncertainty associated with the prediction of the hydrological variables
such as runoff in similar hydrological conditions is also similar. By “hydrological
conditions” we mean here the combination of the state of the input data and the state
variables, which are driving the generation of the runoff in the catchment. For example,
one can see that, compared to the low flows, it is more difficult to predict extreme
events such as peak flows. Consequently, uncertainty of the prediction of the peak flows
is higher compared to those for low flows. In other words, we assume that there is a
dependency between the model uncertainty statistics and the input data of the process
model, and this dependency might be sufficient to build a machine learning model that
can predict the model uncertainty when the input data vector is presented. The flow
chart of the MLUE methodology is presented in Figure 4.1.
66 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Input data D = {X, y}
Monte Carlo Simulations
Compute uncertainty descriptors z
(e.g. quantile) for each time step t
Investigate dependency between the uncertainty
descriptors and the input data
Construct the training data {Xu , z} from the input data
Choose machine learning model U
Train model U : z = U(Xu)
No
Performance of Model
U acceptable
Yes
Verify statistics of the uncertainty descriptors (e.g., PICP and MPI)
No
PICP and MPI acceptable
Yes
Predict uncertainty descriptors zt for the new
input vector xt using U i.e. zt = U(xt)
Figure 4.1. Schematic diagram of using machine learning method to estimate uncertainty
generated by MC simulations.
4.5.1 Monte Carlo simulations
Consider a deterministic model M of a real world system predicting a system output
variable y given the input data X, the initial condition of the state variables s0 and the
vector of the parameter θ. The model M could be physically based, conceptual, or even
data- driven. The model M is also referred to as “primary model” in order to distinguish
from uncertainty model which will be described later. For the sake of simplicity, the
model M here is referred to as a conceptual rainfall-runoff model. The system response
can be represented by the following equation:
y = M (x, s, θ ) + ε = yˆ + ε
(4.1)
where ε is the vector of the model errors between the vector of the observed response y
and the corresponding model response ŷ . Note that the state variable s, which appears
in the equation (4.1), will be computed by running the model M given the initial
condition of the state variables s0. Before running the model M, the components of the
model i.e. input data vector x, initial conditions s0, parameter θ , and the model structure
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
67
itself, have to be specified, while the output or model response ŷ and the state variable
s are computed by running the model. These components may be uncertain in various
ways to various degrees; the consequences of these uncertainties will be propagated into
the model states and the outputs.
The MC simulation is performed by running the model multiple times by sampling
either the input data x or the parameters vectors θ or even the structure of the model, or
a combination of them. Thus, mathematically it is equivalent to the following:
yˆ = M (x , θ )
(4.2)
where M is the possible candidate of the model structure, x is the sampled input data
from the given pdf, θ is the parameter sampled with the given pdf from the feasible
domain of the parameter space. For the sake of simplicity we assume that model
structure and input data are correct, then equation (4.2) can be rewritten as:
yˆt ,i = M (x, θi ); t =1, ..., n; i =1, ..., s
(4.3)
where θi is the set of parameters sampled for the ith run of MC simulation, yˆt ,i is the
model output of the tth time step for the ith run, n is the number of time steps and s is
the number of simulations.
4.5.2 Characterisation of uncertainty
Having enough realizations of the MC simulations, the desired statistical properties
such as moments and quantiles of the model output for each time step t are estimated
from the realizations yˆt ,i . One way to judge the uncertainty of the model output is to use
the second moment (variance) of the model error: a large variance of the model error
typically indicates that the model prediction is uncertain. In most cases, however, the
variance does not sufficiently describe the uncertainty. Furthermore if the model errors
are not Gaussian, which is often the case (see, e.g., Xu, 2001; Shrestha and Solomatine,
2008), then the error variance cannot be used to derive the predictive uncertainty. In this
situation more informative quantities such the cumulative distribution function (cdf) or
some of its quantiles or prediction intervals are used. We denote such a quantity by z
which characterises the uncertainty of the model prediction. The following uncertainty
descriptors can be foreseen:
1. The prediction variance σ t2 ( yˆt )
σ t2 ( yˆt ) =
1 s
( yˆt ,i − yˆt ,i )2
∑
s − 1 i =1
where yˆt ,i is the mean of MC realizations at the time step t.
2. The prediction quantile Qˆt ( p ) corresponding to the pth [0, 1] quantile
(4.4)
68 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
s
P ( yˆt < Qˆt ( p)) = ∑ wi yˆt ,i <Qˆt ( p )
(4.5)
i =1
where wi is the weight given to the model output at simulation i, yˆt is the realization
vector at time step t, yˆt ,i is the value of model outputs at the time t simulated by the
model M(x,θi).
3. The transferred prediction quantile ΔQˆt ( p) corresponding to the pth [0, 1]
quantile
ΔQˆt ( p) = Qˆt ( p) − yt
(4.6)
where yt is the output of the calibrated (optimal) model. Note that the quantiles
ΔQˆt ( p) obtained in this way are conditional on the model structure, inputs and the
likelihood weight vector wi. The essence of this transferred prediction quantile will
be apparent in the next section.
4. The prediction intervals [ PI tL (α ) PItU (α ) ] derived from the transferred
prediction quantile for given confidence level of 1-α (0<α<1)
PItL (α ) = ΔQˆt (α / 2), PItU (α ) = ΔQˆt ((1 − α ) / 2)
(4.7)
where PItL (α ) and PItU (α ) are the distance between the model output to the lower
and upper prediction limits respectively and referred to the lower and upper
prediction intervals corresponding to the 1-α confidence level (although, formally,
these are not intervals but distances).
4.5.3 Predictive model for emulating MC simulations
Once the desired uncertainty descriptors are computed from the realizations of MC
simulations, machine learning models are used to emulate the MC simulations by
estimating the uncertainty descriptors. The machine learning models are used to map the
input data and state variables (if any) to the uncertainty descriptors of the model output
that is generated by the MC simulations. Experience suggests that the model residuals
(errors) may show a non-stationary bias, heteroscedasticity, non-stationary skewness
and autocorrelation over one or more time steps (Beven and Freer, 2001). This
characteristic of the model output distribution motivates us to build the machine
learning models to approximate not only the mean and variance, but also the other
uncertainty descriptors.
The machine learning model U to learn the functional relationship between the input
data x and the uncertainty descriptor z takes the form:
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
zt = U (xt ) + ξt
69
(4.8)
where ξt is the residual (error) between the target uncertainty descriptor zt and the
predicted uncertainty descriptor by the machine learning model. The input data vector x
used to train the machine learning models is typically different from the input to the
process based model M and is discussed in section 4.6. The input data x is constructed
from the input variables of the process model, state variables, lagged variables of input
and output and other relevant variables that could help to increase accuracy of the
prediction. The residual ξ measures the accuracy and predictability of the machine
learning model U. Model U, after being trained, encapsulates the underlying dynamics
of the uncertainty descriptors of the MC simulations and maps the input to those
descriptors. The model U can be of various types, from linear to non-linear regression
models such as an ANN. The choice of model depends on the complexity of the
problem to be handled and the availability of data. Once the model U is trained on the
calibration data, it can be employed to estimate the uncertainty descriptors such as
prediction intervals for the new input data vector that was not used in any of the model
building process (see Figure 4.1).
If the uncertainty descriptor is the transferred prediction quantile (equation (4.6)),
then the model U will take the form:
ΔQˆt ( p) = U (xt ) + ξt
(4.9)
If the uncertainty descriptor is the prediction interval derived from the transferred
prediction quantile (equation (4.7)), then the model U will take the form:
PI tL (α ) = U L (xt ) + ξ L
(4.10)
PI tU (α ) = UU (xt ) + ξU
Since the transferred prediction quantile is derived from the contemporary value of
the model simulations (equation (4.6)), then the predictive quantile of the model output
is estimated by
Qˆt ( p ) = U (xt ) + yt
(4.11)
Similarly upper and lower prediction limits of the model output is given by
PLtL (α ) = U L (xt ) + yt
PLUt (α )
(4.12)
= UU (xt ) + yt
where UL and UU are the machine learning models for the lower and upper prediction
intervals, respectively. It is worthwhile to mention that for the uncertainty descriptors of
equation (4.6) and equation (4.7), it is assumed that there is an optimal model.
70 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
4.6
Selection of input variables
As mentioned in section 3.9, the selection of appropriate model inputs is extremely
important as they contain important information about the complex (linear or nonlinear) relationship with the model outputs. Therefore the success of the MLUE method
depends on the appropriate selection of the input variables to use in machine learning
model U. The required input variables can vary depending on the type of the process
model and the inputs used in the process model, among others. In most cases, a
combination of the domain knowledge and the analytical analysis of the causal
relationship may be used to select relevant variables to use as the input to the machine
learning model. The input variables to the machine learning model that can be
considered are termed plausible data and include:
• Input variables to the process or primary model;
• State variables;
• Observed outputs of the process model;
• Outputs of the process model;
• Time derivatives of the input data and state variables of the process model;
• Lagged variables of input, state and observed output of the process model; and
• Other data from the physical system that may be relevant to the pdf of the model
errors.
In most practical cases, the input data set x can be constructed from the plausible
data set according to the methods discussed in section 3.9. Since the natures of the
models M and U are very different, an analytical technique such as linear correlation or
average mutual information between the quantiles of the model error and the plausible
data is needed to choose the relevant input variables. As note in the above list of the
plausible data, the input variable might also consist of the lagged variables of input,
state and observed output of the process model. Based on the domain knowledge and
the analytical analysis of the causal relationship, several structures of input data can be
tested to select the optimal input data structure.
For example, if the model M is a conceptual hydrological model, it would typically
use rainfall (Rt) and evapotranspiration (Et) as input variables to simulate the output
variable runoff (Qt). However, the uncertainty model U, whose aim is to uncertainty of
the simulated runoff, may be trained with the possible combination of rainfall and
evapotranspiration (or effective rainfall), their past (lagged) values, the lagged values of
runoff, and, possibly, their combinations. Let us recall equation (4.8) of uncertainty
model U and extend it:
zt = U ( Rt' , EPt' , Qt' −1 , S t' ,...) + ξt
where,
Rt' = Rt, Rt-1, …, Rt-τmax is the lagged inputs of the rainfall
(4.13)
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
71
EPt' = EPt, EPt-1, …, EPt-τmax is the lagged inputs of the potential evapotranspiration
Qt' −1 = Qt-1, Qt-2, …, Qt-τmax is the lagged inputs of the runoff
St' = St, St-1, …, St-τmax is the lagged inputs of the state variable (e.g., soil moisture etc)
We follow above conventions throughout this thesis in defining lagged inputs of the
variables. The difficulty here is to select appropriate lags τmax for each input variables
beyond which, values of the input time series have no significant effect on the output
time series (in our case uncertainty descriptors). A subset of inputs for the model U is
selected based on methods discussed in section 3.9. It is noteworthy to mention that
inputs to the model U should not include those variables which are not available or
cannot be measured at the time of prediction. Thus in above formulation, Qt is not
included, however lagged of Qt can be used as one of the inputs as shown above.
4.7
Validation of methodology
The uncertainty model U can be validated in two ways: (i) by measuring its predictive
capability; and (ii) by measuring the statistics of the uncertainty. The former approach
measures the accuracy of uncertainty models in approximating the uncertainty
descriptors of the realizations of the MC simulations. The latter approach measures the
goodness of the uncertainty models as uncertainty estimators.
Two performance measures such as the coefficient of correlation (CoC) and the root
mean squared error (RMSE) are used to measure the predictive capability of the
uncertainty model and are given by:
n
∑ ( z t − z )(V (xt ) − V (xt ))
CoC =
t =1
n
n
t =1
t =1
(4.14)
∑ ( z t − z )2 ∑ (V (xt ) − V (xt ))2
RMSE =
1 n
∑ ( zt − V (xt ))2
n t =1
(4.15)
where z and V (xt ) are the mean of the uncertainty descriptors and the mean of the
uncertainty descriptors predicted by the uncertainty model U, respectively. Beside these
numerical measures, the graphical plots such as the scatter and time plot of the
uncertainty descriptors obtained from the MC simulation and their predicted values are
used to judge the performance of the uncertainty model U.
72 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
The goodness of the uncertainty models is evaluated based on uncertainty measures
by using the so-called prediction interval coverage probability (PICP) and mean
prediction interval (MPI) (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2006a). The PICP is the frequency
of the observed outputs falling within the computed prediction intervals corresponding
to the prescribed confidence level of 1-α (say 90%). Thus, PICP measures the efficiency
to bracket the observed outputs within the uncertainty bounds against the specified α
value. PICP is given by:
PICP =
1 n
∑C
n t =1
⎧⎪1, PLtL ≤ yt ≤ PLUt
with C = ⎨
⎪⎩ 0, otherwise
(4.16)
where yt is the observed model output at the time t. Theoretically, the value of PICP
should be close to the prescribed degree of confidence 1-α. However, if the value of
PICP obtained by MC simulation is not close to 1-α, then we cannot expect that the
PICP value obtained by uncertainty model U will be close to α. If the model U is good
enough then its PICP value should be close to that of the MC simulations.
MPI is the average width of the prediction intervals and gives an indication of how
high the uncertainty is:
1 n
MPI = ∑ ( PLUt − PLtL )
(4.17)
n t =1
The larger the uncertainty, the larger the value of the MPI will be. In the ideal case if
there is no uncertainty, then the value of the MPI will be zero. However, the MPI alone
does not say too much; it will be used together with PICP to compare the performance
of the uncertainty models. The best model will be one which gives the PICP close to 1α with the lowest MPI. It is obvious that the PICP will be increased with the increase of
the MPI.
Beside these uncertainty statistics, the plot of uncertainty bounds and the observed
model output are investigated to judge the performance of the uncertainty model. Visual
inspection of these plots can provide significant information about how effective the
uncertainty model is in enclosing the observed outputs along the different input regimes
(e.g., low, medium or high flows in hydrology).
4.8
Limitations of the method
This section discusses some issues concerning the limitations and possible extensions of
the method. Since the machine learning technique is the core of the method, the problem
of extrapolation, which is a well known problem of machine learning techniques, is also
present. This means that the results are reliable only within the boundaries of the
domain where the training data are given. In order to avoid the problem of
extrapolation, an attempt should be made to ensure that the training data includes all
possible combinations of the events including the extreme (such as extreme flood), and
Chapter 4. Machine learning in prediction of parameter uncertainty: MLUE method
73
this is not always possible since the extremes tend to be rather rare events. Like the
conventional approach of uncertainty analysis, the MLUE method also presupposes the
existence of a reasonably long, precise and relevant time series of measurements. As
pointed out by Hall and Anderson (2002), uncertainty in extreme or unrepeatable events
is more important than in situations where there are historical data set, and it requires
different approaches towards uncertainty estimation. The lack of sufficient historical
data makes the uncertainty results from the model unreliable.
Another problem which is related to extrapolation is that the MLUE method is
applicable only to systems whose physical characteristics do not change with time. In
other words, the results are not reliable if the physics of the catchment (e.g., land use
change) and hydrometrological conditions (due to climate change) differ substantially
from what was observed in calibrating the model. If there is evidence of such changes,
then the models should be re-calibrated.
The reliability and accuracy of the uncertainty analysis depend on the accuracy of
the uncertainty models used, so attention should be given to these aspects. The proposed
method does not consider the uncertainty associated with the model U. For example,
one could use the cross-validation data set to improve the accuracy of the model U by
generalising its predictive capability.
Chapter 5
Application of Machine
Learning Method to Predict
Parameter Uncertainty
This chapter presents the application MLUE (machine learning method to
predict parameter uncertainty) method to rainfall-runoff models. We use three
machines learning methods, namely artificial neural networks, model trees; and
locally weighted regression to predict several uncertainty descriptors of the
rainfall-runoff model outputs. The generalised likelihood uncertainty estimation
(GLUE) method is first used to assess the parameter uncertainty of the model
and then machine learning methods are used to predict the uncertainty estimated
by the GLUE method. The Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning (HBV)
conceptual rainfall-runoff model of the Brue catchment in the United Kingdom is
used for the application of the MLUE method.
5.1
Description of the Brue catchment 1
The Brue catchment is located in South West of England, UK. This catchment has been
extensively used for research on weather radar, quantitative precipitation forecasting
and rainfall-runoff modelling, as it has been facilitated with a dense rain gauges network
as well as coverage by three weather radars. Numerous studies (Bell and Moore, 2000;
Moore, 2002) have been conducted regarding the catchment, notably during the period
of the Hydrological Radar EXperiment (HYREX) which was a UK Natural
Environment Research Council (NERC) Special Topic Program. Figure 5.1 shows the
locations of the Brue catchment and the gauging stations. The major land use is pasture
on clay soil and there are some patches of woodland in the higher eastern part of the
catchment.
1
Based on: Shrestha, D. L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). A novel approach to
parameter uncertainty analysis of hydrological models using neural networks. Hydrology and
Earth System Sciences, 13, 1235-1248.
76 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.1. The Brue catchment showing dense rain gauges network (the horizontal and vertical
axes refer to the easting and northing in British national grid reference co-ordinates).
The catchment has a drainage area of 135 km2 with the average annual rainfall of
867 mm and the average river flow of 1.92 m3/s, for the period from 1961 to 1990.
Besides weather radar, there is a dense rain gauges network which comprises 49
Cassella 0.2 mm tipping-bucket rain gauges, having recording time resolution of 10
seconds (Bell and Moore, 2000). The network provides at least one rain gauge in each
of the 2 km grid squares that lie entirely within the catchment. The discharge is
measured at Lovington.
The hourly data of rainfall, discharge, and automatic weather data (temperature,
wind, solar radiation etc.) were computed from the 15 minute data. The basin average
rainfall data was used in the study. The hourly potential evapotranspiration was
computed using the modified Penman method recommended by FAO (Allen et al.,
1998). One year hourly data from 1994/06/24 05:00 to 1995/06/24 04:00 was selected
for calibration of the HBV model and data from 1995/06/24 05:00 to 1996/05/31 13:00
was used for the verification (validation or testing) of the HBV model. Each of the two
data sets represents almost a full year of observations. Statistical properties of the
discharge data are shown in Table 5.1.
Table 5.1. Statistical properties of the discharge data.
Statistical properties
Available data
Calibration set
Verification set
Period (yyyy/mm/dd
hh:mm)
1994/06/24 05:00 –
1996/05/3113:00
1994/06/24 05:00 –
1996/05/31 13:00
1994/06/24 05:00 –
1996/05/31 13:00
Number of data
16977
8760
8217
3
Average (m /s)
1.91
2.25
1.53
3
0.15
0.17
0.14
3
Maximum (m /s)
39.58
39.58
29.56
Standard deviation (m3/s)
3.14
3.68
2.37
Minimum (m /s)
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
5.2
77
Description of rainfall-runoff model
In this thesis we use simplified version of the HBV (Bergström, 1976) model as rainfallrunoff model. The HBV model is a lumped conceptual hydrological model which
includes conceptual numerical descriptions of the hydrological processes at catchment
scale. The model was developed at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological
Institute (Bergström, 1976) and is named after the abbreviation of Hydrologiska Byråns
Vattenbalansavdelning (Hydrological Bureau Water Balance Section). The model was
originally developed for Scandinavian catchments, but has been successfully applied in
more than thirty countries all over the world (Lindström et al., 1997). With growing
application of the HBV model, there are also interests to quantify the prediction
uncertainty of the HBV models (see, e.g., Seibert, 1997; Uhlenbrook et al., 1999).
The simplified version of the HBV model follows the structure of the HBV-96
model (Lindström et al., 1997) and its schematic diagram is shown in Figure 5.2. The
model comprises subroutines for snow accumulation and melt, soil moisture accounting
procedure, routines for runoff generation, and a simple routing procedure. The
snowmelt routine is based on a degree day relation with an altitude correction for
precipitation and temperature:
snowmelt = CFMAX (T − TT )
(5.1)
where TT is the threshold temperature, T is the altitude corrected temperature; and the
parameter CFMAX is the melting factor. The threshold temperature is usually close to 00
C and is used to define the temperature above which snowmelt occurs. The threshold
temperature is also used to decide whether the precipitation falls as rain or snow. If the
mean air temperature is less than the threshold temperature, precipitation is assumed to
Figure 5.2. Schematic representation of the simplified version of the HBV model used in this
thesis with routines for snow, soil, and runoff response (adapted from Shrestha and
Solomatine, 2008).
78 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
be in snow form. The snow pack is assumed to retain melt water as long as the amount
does not exceed a certain fraction (given by the parameter WHC) of the snow. When
temperature decreases below the threshold temperature, this water refreezes according
to the formula:
refreezingmeltwater = CFR ⋅ CFMAX (TT − T )
(5.2)
where CFR is the refreezing factor.
The soil moisture accounting routine computes the proportion of snowmelt or
rainfall P (mm/h or mm/day) that reaches the soil surface, which is ultimately converted
to runoff. This proportion is related to the soil moisture deficit and is calculated using
the relation (see also Figure 5.3a):
R ⎛ SM ⎞
=⎜
⎟
P ⎝ FC ⎠
BETA
(5.3)
where R is the recharge to the upper zone (mm/h or mm/day), SM is the soil moisture
storage (mm), FC is the maximum soil moisture storage (mm), and BETA is a parameter
accounting for non linearity. If the soil is dry (i.e., small value of SM/FC), the recharge
R, which subsequently becomes runoff, is small as the major portion of the effective
precipitation P is used to increase the soil moisture. Whereas if the soil is wet, the major
portion of P is available to increase the storage in the upper zone.
Actual evapotranspiration EA (mm/h or mm/day) from the soil moisture storage is
calculated from the potential evapotranspiration EP (mm/h or mm/day) using the
following formulae (see Figure 5.3b):
⎛ SM ⎞
EA = EP ⎜
⎟ if SM < FC ⋅ LP
⎝ FC ⋅ LP ⎠
EA = EP
if SM ≥ FC ⋅ LP
(5.4)
where LP is the fraction of FC above which the evapotranspiration reaches its potential
level. The actual evapotranspiration that takes place from the soil moisture storage
depends on the soil moisture. Evapotranspiration is equal to the potential value if the
relative soil moisture (i.e., SM/FC) is greater than LP. If the relative soil moisture is less
than this value, the actual evapotranspiration is reduced linearly to zero for a completely
dry soil.
Runoff generation routine transforms excess water R from the soil moisture zone to
the runoff. The routine consists of two conceptual reservoirs arranged vertically one
over the other. The upper reservoir is a non-linear reservoir whose outflow simulates
the direct runoff component from the upper soil zone, while the lower one is a linear
reservoir whose outflow simulates the base flow component of the runoff. Excess water
or recharge R enters the upper reservoir and its outflow is given by:
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
79
(a)
(b)
1
to soil
moisture
storage
EA / EP
R/ P
1
groundwater
recharge
0
SM
FC
0
FC * LP
SM
FC
Figure 5.3. HBV model parameters relations. (a) Contributions from precipitation to the soil
moisture or ground water storage and (b) ratio of actual and potential evapotranspiration.
Q0 = K ⋅ UZ (1+ ALFA)
(5.5)
where K is recession coefficient of the upper reservoir, UZ is the storage in the upper
reservoir (mm), ALFA is the parameter accounting for the non-linearity. There is also a
capillary flux CF (mm/h or mm/day) from the upper reservoir to the soil moisture zone
and is computed by the following formula:
⎛ SM ⎞
CF = CFLUX ⎜1 −
⎟
FC ⎠
⎝
(5.6)
where CFLUX is the maximum value of capillary flux. The lower reservoir is filled by a
constant percolation rate PERC (mm/h or mm/day), as long as there is water in the
upper reservoir. Outflow from the lower reservoir is calculated according to the
following equation:
Q1 = K 4 ⋅ LZ
(5.7)
where K4 is the recession coefficient of the lower reservoir, LZ is the storage in the
lower reservoir (mm). The total runoff Q is computed as the sum of the outflows from
the upper and the lower reservoirs. The total runoff is then smoothed using a triangular
transformation function whose base is defined by a parameter MAXBAS (hours or days).
Input data are observations of precipitation, air temperature and estimates of
potential evapotranspiration. The time step is usually one day, but it is possible to use
shorter time steps. The evaporation values used are normally monthly averages,
although it is possible to use the daily values. Air temperature data are used for the
calculations of snow accumulation and melt. It can also be used to adjust potential
evapotranspiration when the temperature deviates from normal values, or to calculate
the potential evapotranspiration. A detailed description of the HBV-96 model can be
found elsewhere (see, e.g., Lindström et al., 1997).
80 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
5.3
Experimental setup
The simplified version of the HBV model consists of 13 parameters (4 parameters for
snow, 4 for soil, and 5 for the response routine). Since there is little or no snowfall in
the catchment, the snow routine was excluded leaving only 9 parameters (see Table
5.2). The model is first calibrated using the global optimisation routine – adaptive
cluster covering algorithm, ACCO (Solomatine et al., 1999) to find the best set of
parameters, and subsequently manual adjustments of the parameters are made. ACCO is
a random search global optimisation algorithm which is implemented in the global
optimisation tool, GLOBE (available at http://www.data-machine.com). Briefly the
ACCO algorithm works as follows:
1. The initial population of parameters (points) is sampled uniformly in the
feasible domain;
2. The population is reduced by choosing the “good” points (promising points with
the low function value);
3. The good points are grouped into clusters; and
4. For each cluster, smaller regions are repetitively formed around the currently
best point and progressively covered by the newly generated points.
A detailed description of the algorithm can be found in the citation above.
The ranges of parameters values for automatic calibration and uncertainty analysis
are set based on the ranges of calibrated values from the other model applications (e.g.,
Braun and Renner, 1992) and the hydrological knowledge of the catchment. The ranges
are extended when the solutions are found near the border of the parameter ranges and
re-calibration of the model is done with the extended ranges of the parameters.
Table 5.2. Ranges and calibrated values of the HBV model parameters.
Parameter
Description and unit
Ranges
Calibrated
value
FC
Maximum soil moisture content (mm)
100-300
160.335
LP
Ratio for potential evapotranspiration (-)
0.5-0.99
0.527
ALFA
Response box parameter (-)
0-4
1.54
BETA
Exponential parameter in soil routine (-)
0.9-2
1.963
K
Recession coefficient for upper tank (/hour)
0.0005-0.1
0.001
K4
Recession coefficient for lower tank (/hour)
0.0001-0.005
0.004
PERC
Maximum flow from upper to lower tank (mm/hour)
0.01-0.09
0.089
CFLUX
Maximum value of capillary flow (mm/hour)
0.01-0.05
0.0038
MAXBAS
Transfer function parameter (hour)
8-15
12
Note: The uniform ranges of parameters are used for calibration of the HBV model using the
ACCO algorithm and for analysis of the parameter uncertainty of the HBV model.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
Discharge (m 3/s)
(a)
Cross-validation
40
Part of training
Observed
Simulated
30
20
10
0
3000
(b)
3500
4000
4500
5000
5500
6000
Time (hours) (1994/10/10 13:00 -1995/03/22 00:00)
6500
Part of verification
30
Discharge (m 3/s)
81
20
10
0
9000
10000
11000
12000
13000
14000
15000
Time (hours) (1995/10/10 13:00 -1996/03/22 00:00)
16000
Figure 5.4. Simulated discharge for the Brue catchment in a part of (a) calibration period and (b)
verification period.
Sometimes automatic calibration gives the parameter values which do not represent
the physical process well in all situations. Therefore, manual fine tuning of the
parameters follows the automatic procedure by visual comparison of the observed and
simulated hydrographs
The model is calibrated using the Nash-Sutcliffe model efficiency, CoE (Nash and
Sutcliffe, 1970) as a performance measure of the HBV model. The CoE value of 0.96 is
obtained for the calibration period. The model is validated by simulating the flows for
the independent verification data set, and the CoE is 0.83 for this period. Figure 5.4
shows the observed and simulated hydrograph in a part of calibration and in verification
period. The scatter plot of the observed and simulated hourly flow is presented on
Figure 5.5. For many data points HBV model is quite accurate but its error (uncertainty)
is quite high during the peak flows. This can be explained by the fact that the version of
the HBV model used in this study is the lumped model and one cannot expect high
accuracy from it. Furthermore input data might be erroneous. It is observed that
residuals are autocorrelated and heteroscedastic (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2008).
82 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.5. Scatter plot of observed versus simulated hourly discharge by HBV model. (a)
Calibration period and (b) verification period.
5.4
MC simulations and convergence analysis
The parameters are sampled from the uniform distribution with the ranges given in
Table 5.2. The model is run for each random parameter set and the likelihood measure
is computed for each model run. We use the sum of the squared errors as the basis to
calculate the likelihood measure (see Freer et al., 1996) in the form:
L(θi / D) = (1 −
σ2
e
σ2
(5.8)
)N
obs
where L(θi/D) is the likelihood measure for the ith model conditioned on the
observations D, σ 2 is the associated error variance for the ith model, σ 2 is the
e
obs
observed variance for the period under consideration, N is a user defined parameter. We
set N to 1; in this case equation (5.8) is equivalent to CoE.
We investigate the number of behavioural samples retained out of 74,467 MC
samples for different values of the rejection threshold. Figure 5.6 shows the percentage
of behavioural samples corresponding to different values of the rejection threshold as
measured by CoE. It is observed that only about 1/3 of simulations (25,000 samples) are
accepted for the threshold value of 0, whereas less than 1/10 of simulations are retained
for a higher threshold value of 0.7. Based on total samples of 74467, we also compute
the ratio of total number of samples and number of behavioural samples for different
values of the rejection threshold. The results show that the ratio increases exponentially
with the threshold value. These results suggest that the MC sampling within the GLUE
method is not an efficient sampling method as the larger number of samplings are
rejected.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
83
10000
100
% of behavioural samples
80
Behavioural samples
70
1000
Total samples
60
100
50
40
30
10
20
10
0
Ratio of total and behavioural samples
90
1
-Inf
0
0.1
0.2
0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6
Rejection threshold
0.7
0.8
0.9
Figure 5.6. Percentage of behavioural samples (left y axis) and ratio of total number of samples
and behavioural samples (right y axis) with different value of the rejection threshold as
measured by the coefficient of model efficiency, CoE.
The convergence of the MC simulations is also assessed to know the number of
samples required to obtain reliable results. Since we have used CoE as an objective
function to calibrate the model and as a likelihood measure in the GLUE method, we
use the same metric also to determine the convergence of the MC simulations. The
mean and standard deviation of CoE are used to analyse the convergence of the MC
simulations:
MEk =
1 k
∑ CoEi
k i =1
(5.9)
SDEk =
k
1
∑ (CoEi − MEk )2
k i =1
where CoEi is the coefficient of model efficiency of the ith MC run, MEk and SDEk are
the mean and standard deviation of the model efficiency up to the kth run, respectively.
The Figure 5.7 depicts the two statistics – the mean and standard deviation of the
CoE of model runs corresponding to different numbers of samples. It is observed that
both statistics become stable around 10,000 simulations; however, in this case study we
used 25,000 behavioural samples. Note that we check the convergence after getting the
25,000 behavioural samples from the 74,467 MC simulations. But it is better to monitor
these statistics during the MC simulations and stop the simulation when the
convergence criterion is met. Other statistics such as the coefficients of variation for the
mean and variance of the model efficiency can also be used to test the convergence (see,
e.g., Ballio and Guadagnini, 2004).
84 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.7. The convergence of mean and standard deviation of Nash-Sutcliffe model efficiency.
Note that x-axis is log scale to see initial variation.
We also computed several other performance metrics (e.g., RMSE, absolute error,
percentage bias and others) for the convergence test. It is observed that the results are
consistent with the CoE metric. Furthermore we also analysed the convergence of the
runoff predictions at some arbitrary points (e.g., in peak, medium and base flow), and
the results are quite consistent with the previous global performance metrics.
5.5
Posterior distributions and sensitivity of parameters
Figure 5.8 shows a scatter plot (also called dotty plot) of the 74,465 MC samples
associated with the likelihood measure of equation (5.8). This figure shows that there
are many combinations of parameters values for a chosen model structure that may be
equally good in reproducing the observed discharge in terms of some quantitative
objective function of goodness of fit. It also appears that the good simulations are
distributed across a wide range of values for any particular parameter, suggesting that it
is the combined set of parameters that is important (see, Freer et al., 1996). If the
surface of the scatter plot (representing the best model parameterisation for a given
value of the parameter) has a clearly defined minimum or maximum then the parameter
can be considered to be well identified. In our case study only two parameters ALFA
and MAXBAS emerge as identifiable parameters.
Figure 5.9 shows the marginal posterior probability distributions of the model
parameters resulting from the MC simulation for a period of 2 years of the hourly
stream flow data. These distributions are conditioned on the given model structure and
the likelihood function. It is noteworthy to mention that these distributions are not
derived from the Bayesian statistics but they are approximated from MC samples. So
these distributions are not truly posterior distribution and will be referred to as empirical
posterior distributions. These distributions are derived from the likelihood measure of
equation (5.8).
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
85
Figure 5.8. Dotty plots resulting from MC simulations. Each dot represents one model run with
the parameter vector chosen randomly by uniform sampling across the range for each
parameter.
The marginal empirical posterior distribution for each parameter θ(j) from the joint
probability distribution of the parameter vector θi( j ) , i=1, .., s and j=1, ..., p (where s is
the number of samples and p is the number of parameters) and the corresponding
likelihood value Li is computed by the following procedure:
1. For each parameter θ(1), divide the range of its sampled values θi(1) obtained
from the MC samples into K equal bins;
2. For each bin k (1 ≤ k ≤ K),
• Compute the sampling density nsampk by counting the number of samples of
the parameter θ(1) belonging to the bin k;
• Sum the likelihood values Li of all nsampk samples which belong to the bin k.
This sum is denoted by Lk;
• Compute the probability pk = Lk / nsampk;
3. Repeat step 2 for all bins;
86 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
4. Normalize the probability pk to have the sum of the probability
pk
one: pk =
; and
K
∑ pk
k =1
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for all parameters.
The figure shows that some parameters such as K4 and CFLUX have relatively flat
distributions while some parameters like ALFA, K, and MAXBAS have skewed
distributions. An additional analysis of the posterior distributions with different values
of rejection threshold has been carried out and the results reveal that the posterior
distributions are sensitive to the rejection threshold value.
Figure 5.10 shows the cumulative distributions of the best performing (with respect
to the likelihood value) 10% parameter sets. The cumulative distributions for each
parameter are computed following the same procedure given for the marginal posterior
distribution. The only difference is that instead of using all the MC samples, the best
10% parameter sets are selected. The gradient of the cumulative distribution measures
the magnitude of the sensitivity of the parameters. The higher gradient of the
distribution such as in parameters ALFA and K means a high sensitivity of the
parameter.
Figure 5.9. Empirical posterior probability distribution of 74467 numbers of sample parameters
condition on likelihood based on the coefficient of model efficiency. Note that the prior
distribution for these parameters is uniform.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
87
Figure 5.10. Sensitivity plot of the best 10% parameter sets of MC simulations for different values
of CoE rejection threshold (0, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7).
Figure 5.11. Sensitivity plot of parameters expressed as cumulative distributions of values in 10
equal sets (by number). Set s1 represents the highest likelihood values and set s10 the lowest.
88 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Further analysis is carried out by computing the cumulative distributions of the
behavioural samples for different values of the rejection threshold. It is observed that
there are three groups of the parameters: (i) insensitive parameters such as K4 and
CFLUX; (ii) those with a positive gradient such as FC, LP, K, and MAXBAS; and (iii)
those with a negative gradient such as ALFA, BETA, K4, and PERC. Parameters from
the first group are insensitive to the threshold values and can be considered as poorly
identifiable parameters. In the second group of parameters, the gradient increases with
the increase of the threshold value. In the third group of parameters, the gradient
decreases with the increase of the threshold value. Such plots must be interpreted with
care, and the visual impression will depend on the original range of the parameter
considered, and the likelihood function used. It should be noted that parameters which
show the uniform marginal distribution may still have significance in the context of a
set of values of the other parameters due to the parameter correlation and interaction.
As shown in Figure 5.8, the interaction between parameter values results in broad
regions of acceptable simulations and it is the combination of parameter values that
produces the acceptable or non-acceptable simulations within the chosen model
structure. Such a plot reveals little about the sensitivity of the model predictions to the
individual parameters, except where some strong change in the likelihood measure is
observed in some range of a particular parameter. A more detailed analysis based on the
extension of regional sensitivity analysis (Spear and Hornberger, 1980; Freer et al.,
1996) was performed. Figure 5.11 shows the cumulative distributions for 10 equal sets
(by number) of behavioural simulations corresponding to the rejection threshold value
of 0. Each parameter population is ranked from best to worst in terms of the chosen
likelihood function, and the ranked population is then divided into ten bins of equal size
(2500 numbers of parameter sets). The cumulative likelihood distribution of each group
is then plotted. The parameter sensitivity can be evaluated by assessing the spread of the
cumulative distribution function for each group. Parameters with a strong variation in
the distribution function are recognized as sensitive parameters. ALFA, K and MAXBAS
are such sensitive parameters, while K4 and CLUX show no sensitivity at all. The rest of
the parameters show a moderate sensitivity.
5.6
Machine learning techniques in emulating results of Monte
Carlo simulations
MC simulation provides the basis for assessing the model parameter uncertainty. Once
the model uncertainty is estimated, a machine learning model can be trained to learn the
functional relationship between the uncertainty results and the input data. In the
considered case study the GLUE method has been used for the parameter uncertainty
estimation of the HBV model. The threshold value of 0 (measured by CoE) is selected
to classify the simulation as either behavioural or non-behavioural. 90% uncertainty
bounds are calculated using the 5% and 95% quantiles of the MC simulation
realizations weighted with corresponding likelihood values (equation (4.5)).
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
89
The corresponding 90% lower and upper PI (see equation (4.7)) are calculated using
the model output simulated by the optimal parameter sets shown in Table 5.2. Hence the
computed upper and lower PI is conditioned by the optimal model output. The next
important step is to select the most relevant input variables to build the machine
learning models from the domain of the input data.
5.6.1 Selection of input variables
In order to select the most important influencing variables for the machine learning
model, several approaches can be used (see, e.g., Guyon and Elisseeff, 2003; Bowden et
al., 2005). We follow the approaches discussed in section 4.6. The input variables for
the machine learning model U can be constructed from the input such as rainfall,
evapotranspiration, and the output such as observed discharge of the primary model (the
HBV model). Experimental results show that the evapotranspiration alone does not have
a significant influence on the PIs of the model output. Thus it is decided not to include
the evapotranspiration as a separate variable, but rather to use effective rainfall. The
effective rainfall denoted by REt is computed from:
REt = max(( R t − EPt ), 0)
(5.10)
where Rt is the rainfall and EPt is the evapotranspiration.
Figure 5.12 shows the correlation coefficient and the AMI of REt and its lagged
variables with the lower and upper PIs. It is observed that the correlation coefficient is
smallest at a zero hour lag time and increases as the lag increases up to 7 hours (Figure
5.12b) for the upper PI. The correlation plot (see Figure 5.12a) for the lower PI is
different than the upper PI. The optimal lag time (the time at which the correlation
coefficient and/or AMI is maximum) is 9 hours. Such findings are also supported by the
AMI analysis. At the optimal lag time, the variable REt provides the maximum amount
of information about the PIs.
Figure 5.12. Linear correlation and average mutual information (AMI) between effective rainfall
(a) lower prediction interval and (b) upper prediction interval for different time lags.
90 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Table 5.3. Input data structures of machine learning models to reproduce Monte Carlo uncertainty
results of the HBV model.
Models
Lower prediction interval
Upper prediction interval
V11
REt−9a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
REt−9a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
V22
REt−7a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
REt−7a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
V33
REt−7, REt−8, REt−9, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
REt−7, REt−8, REt−9, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
V44
REt−9a, Qt−1, Qt−2
REt−9a, Qt−1, Qt−2
V12
REt−7a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
REt−9a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1
Additionally, the correlation and AMI between the PIs and the observed discharge
are analysed. The results show that the immediate and the recent discharges (with the
lag of 0, 1, and 2 hours) have a very high correlation with the PIs. So it is also decided
to use the past values of the observed discharge as additional input to the model U.
Based on the above analysis, several structures for the input data for the machine
learning models are considered. The principle of parsimony is followed to avoid the use
of a large number of inputs, so the aggregates, such as moving averages or derivatives
of the inputs that would have a hydrological meaning were considered. Typically, the
rainfall depth at a shorter (e.g., an hourly) time step partially exhibits a random
behaviour, and is not very representative of the rainfall phenomenon during the short
period. Considering the maximum dependence to 7 hours and 9 hours lag time, we use
two mean effective rainfall values:
REt−7a - the mean of REt−3, REt−4, REt−5, REt−6, REt−7; and
REt−9a - the mean of REt−5, REt−6, REt−7, REt−8, REt−9.
Furthermore, the derivative of the flow indicates whether the flow situation is either
normal or base flow (zero or small derivative), or can be characterized as the rising limb
of the flood event (high positive derivative), or the recession limb (high negative
derivative). Therefore, in addition to the flow variable Qt−1, the rate of flow change
ΔQt−1 at time t−1 is also considered, where ΔQt−1 = Qt−1 − Qt−2.
Table 5.3 presents five possible combinations of input data structure considered for
the machine learning models. Note that these two models are trained independently for
producing the lower and upper PI; however, it is possible to use a single model in some
machine learning techniques (e.g., ANN) to produce two outputs simultaneously (in this
case the model uses the same input data).
The structure of the two machine learning models to estimate the lower and upper
PI, for instance in V11 input configuration, takes the following form:
PItL = U L ( REt −9a , Qt −1, ΔQt −1 )
(5.11)
PItU = UU ( REt −9 a , Qt −1, ΔQt −1 )
where, PItL and PItU are the lower and upper PI for tth time step. Note that we did not
include the variable Qt to the input of the machine learning model above because during
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
91
the model application this variable is not available (indeed, the prediction of this
variable is done by the HBV model and the machine learning model assesses the
uncertainty of the prediction). Furthermore, we would like to stress that, in this study
the uncertainty of the model output is assessed when the model is used in simulation
mode. However, this method can also be used in forecasting mode, provided that the
primary model is also run in forecasting mode.
5.6.2 Modelling prediction intervals
In this study, we use three machine learning models, namely artificial neural networks
(ANNs), model tree (MT), and locally weighted regression (LWR). The same data sets
used for the calibration and verification of the HBV model are used for the training and
verification of the model U, respectively. However, for proper training of the machine
learning models the calibration data set is segmented into two subsets: 15% of data sets
for cross-validation (CV) and 85% for training (see Figure 5.4). The CV data set is used
to identify the best structure of the machine learning models.
Artificial neural networks
A multilayer perceptron network with one hidden layer is used; optimization is
performed by the Levenberg-Marquardt algorithm. The hyperbolic tangent function is
used for the hidden layer with the linear transfer function at the output layer. The
maximum number of epochs is fixed at 1000. The trial-and-error method is adopted to
detect the optimal number of neurons in the hidden layer, testing a number of neurons
from 1 to 10. It is observed that seven and eight neurons for the lower and upper PI,
respectively give the lowest error on the CV data set.
The performance of the ANN based uncertainty models U for different input
structures is shown in Table 5.4. All ANN models are characterized by similar values of
the coefficient of correlation (CoC) in the CV data set producing a lower PI. In the
verification data set, V11 or V12 (note that configurations V11 and V12 have the same
ANN model for the lower PI), and V44 have the highest CoC value. In producing the
upper PI, V22 or V12 (configurations V22 and V12 have the same ANN model for the
upper PI), and V44 give the highest CoC value in the CV data set.
Table 5.4. Performances of ANN models measured by the coefficient of correlation (CoC), the
prediction interval coverage probability (PICP) and the mean prediction interval (MPI).
Models
V11
V22
V33
V44
V12
CoC for lower PI
Training
CV
Verification
0.91
0.95
0.86
0.92
0.95
0.83
0.91
0.95
0.79
0.90
0.96
0.86
0.91
0.95
0.86
CoC for upper PI
Training
CV
Verification
0.80
0.86
0.80
0.83
0.88
0.79
0.75
0.84
0.76
0.79
0.88
0.80
0.83
0.88
0.79
PICP
(%)
77.00
81.78
73.70
73.99
76.55
MPI
(m3/s)
2.09
2.24
1.90
1.93
2.09
92 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.13. Scatter plots showing the performance of the ANN model to reproduce 90%
prediction limits (PL) of MC simulations in the verification data set. (a) 90% lower PL and
(b) 90% upper PL. X-axes show the PLs obtained by MC simulations and Y-axes show the
PL estimated by ANN.
Figure 5.13 presents the scatter plots of one of the ANN models to produce the
lower and upper prediction limits in the verification period. It is recalled that prediction
limits are computed by adding the model output to the PIs estimated by ANN models
(see equation (4.12)). It appears that the CoC values obtained when predicting the lower
prediction limits are higher than those for the upper prediction limits. This can be
explained by the fact that the upper prediction limits correspond to the higher values of
flow (where the HBV model is less accurate) and have higher variability, which makes
the prediction a difficult task.
We also compared the percentage of the observation data falling within the PIs (i.e.,
PICP) produced by the MC simulations and the ANN models. The value of PICP
obtained by the MC simulations is 77.24%. Note that we specified the confidence level
of 90% to produce these PIs and theoretically one would expect a PICP value of 90%.
However it has been reported that the PICP obtained by the MC simulations is normally
much lower than the specified confidence level used to produce these PIs. This low
value of PICP is consistent with the results reported in the literature (see, e.g.,
Montanari, 2005; Xiong and O’Connor, 2008). The low efficiency of the PIs obtained
by the MC simulations in enveloping the real-world discharge observations might be
mainly due to the following three reasons among others:
• The uncertainty in the model structure, the input (such as rainfall, temperature
data) and output discharge data are not considered in the MC simulations.
• We assumed a uniform distribution and ignored the parameter correlation. These
assumptions could be wrong.
• We employed the GLUE method and the width of the uncertainty bound obtained
by this method varies with the rejection threshold and the likelihood measure to a
great extent.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
93
Figure 5.14. A comparison of 90% PIs estimated by the MC simulations (darker shaded region)
and V12 (thick lines) with (a and b) V11, (c and d) V22, (e and f) V33, (g and h) V44 in parts
of the verification period. The black dots indicate observed discharges and the blue lines
denote 90% PIs obtained by V11, V22, V33, V44.
Among the ANN models, V22 gives the best result corresponding to a PICP value
(i.e. 81.78% against the required 90%). However, V11 and V12 give PICP values very
close to the MC simulation results. The average width of the PIs (i.e., MPI) by V22 is
wider; this is one of the reasons to include a little bit more observed data inside the PIs.
V33 gives the lowest values of both PICP and MPI. The MPI values of V11 and V12
are very close (almost equal) to the MC simulation results.
Figure 5.14 shows the comparison of the 90% PIs estimated by the MC simulations
with 5 different ANN configurations of input data in the verification period. We also
94 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
compare the PIs of V12 with those of V11 (Figure 5.14a and b), V22 (Figure 5.14c and
d), V33 (Figure 5.14e and f) and V44 (Figure 5.14g and h). It is observed that the upper
PIs on peak flows are overestimated by V11 compared to V12. Note that the lower PIs
of V11 and V12 coincide because the input structures of the V11 and V12 for the lower
PIs are the same. One can see from Figure 5.14c and d that V22 and V12 give similar
results with a slight underestimation of the lower PI. In this comparison, the upper PI of
V22 and V12 coincide because of the same input structures for the upper PI.
One can see a noticeable difference between V33 and V12 for both the upper and the
lower PI (see Figure 5.14e and f). Most of the upper PIs on the peaks are overestimated
by V33 and the lower PIs on most of peaks are considerably underestimated. This result
is not surprising if one analyses the structure of the input data. The obvious reason is
that the input data consists of instantaneous values of REt−7, REt−8, REt−9, while in the
other models we use a moving average value of effective rainfall, and thus the smooth
function of the ANN is produced. Figure 5.14g and h show that inclusion of the input
ΔQt−1 does not improve the accuracy as expected. However overestimation of the upper
PIs on peaks is due to the combined effect of considering REt−9 (while upper PI has
maximum correlation at 7 hours) and of not using ΔQt−1.
From the above analysis it can be concluded that model V12 is relatively better: it
produces 90% PIs close to the 90% PIs obtained by the MC simulations. It can be said
that in general most of the ANN models (except V33) reproduce the MC simulations
uncertainty bounds reasonably well except for some peaks, in spite of the low
correlation of the input variables with the PIs. Although some errors can be noticed, the
predicted uncertainty bounds follow the general trend of the MC uncertainty bounds.
Noticeably, the model fails to capture the observed flow during one of the peak events
(Figure 5.14a, c, e, and g). Note however, that the results of the ANN models and the
MC simulations are visually closer to each other than both of them to the observed data.
It is also observed from Figure 5.14 that the model prediction uncertainty caused by
parameter uncertainty is rather large. There could be several reasons for this including:
• The GLUE method does not strictly follow the Bayesian inference process
(Mantovan and Todini, 2006), which leads to an overestimation of the model
prediction uncertainty.
• The uncertainty bound very much depends on the rejection threshold which is
used to distinguish between the behavioural and non-behavioural models. In this
study we used a quite low value of the rejection threshold (CoE value of 0)
which produces relatively wider uncertainty bounds.
• We considered only parameter uncertainty assuming that the model structure and
the input data are correct. As mentioned at the beginning of this section, the
scatter plot reveals that this assumption is not really correct.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
95
Model trees
Several experiments are carried out with a different number of pruning factors that
control the complexity of the generated models. We report the results of the MT which
has a moderate level of complexity. Note that the cross-validation data set has not been
used in the MT; rather the MT uses all the calibration data set to build the models. Table
5.5 shows the performance of the MT with two different input configurations (see Table
5.3).
It can be observed that V12 gives comparatively better results with respect to the
CoC for the upper PI. It is reiterated that the models V11 and V12 to produce the lower
PI are the same (because of the same input structures), thus the CoC values are the
same. We also compute the CoC value between the lower (or upper) prediction limits of
the MT and those of the MC results. It is noteworthy to repeat that the upper and lower
prediction limits are computed by adding the optimal model output to the corresponding
lower and upper PIs (see equation (4.12)). The CoC values for the lower and upper
limits are 0.90 and 0.92, respectively, in the verification period for both of the MT
models.
Detailed analysis reveals that 71.11% of the observed data are enclosed within the
estimated 90% PIs in the verification period when using the model V11. In the case of
the model V12 a slightly lower share (68.72%) of the observed data is inside the 90%
PIs. As far as the width of the uncertainty bound is concerned, the MPI values obtained
by both models are comparable. If compared to the MC simulation results, the MT gives
lower value of the PICP with a slightly lower value of MPI. Note that the PICP and MPI
values of the MC simulation results are 77.24% and 2.09 m3/s, respectively.
Figure 5.15 shows the comparison of the 90% PIs estimated by the MC simulations
with 2 different input configurations for the MT in the verification period. It is observed
that the upper PIs on some peak flows are overestimated by both models of the MT (i.e.
V11 and V12). One can see in the second hydrographs (Figure 5.15b and d) that the
lower PIs are underestimated on the peaks. In general, the predicted uncertainty bounds
by the MT follow the general trend of the MC uncertainty bounds although some errors
can be noticed. Noticeably, the model fails to capture the observed flow during one of
the peak events.
Table 5.5. Performances of the MT and LWR measured by the coefficient of correlation (CoC),
the prediction interval coverage probability (PICP) and the mean prediction interval (MPI).
ML
techniques
MT
LWR
Models
V11
V12
V11
V12
CoC for lower PI
Training Verification
0.91
0.84
0.91
0.84
0.906
0.822
0.906
0.822
CoC for upper PI
Training
Verification
0.76
0.79
0.81
0.79
0.779
0.798
0.766
0.744
PICP
(%)
71.11
68.72
75.16
75.43
MPI
(m3/s)
1.98
1.95
1.96
1.93
96 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.15. Hydrograph of 90% prediction bounds estimated by the MC simulations and the
model tree (MT) in verification period with (a and b) V11, (c and d) V12. The black dot
indicates observed discharges and the dark grey shaded area denotes the prediction
uncertainty that results from the MC simulations. The black line denotes the prediction
uncertainty estimated by the MT.
Figure 5.16. Hydrograph of the 90% prediction bounds estimated by the MC simulations and the
locally weighted regression (LWR) in the verification period with (a and b) V11, (c and d)
V12. The black dot indicates observed discharges and the dark grey shaded area denotes the
prediction uncertainty that results from the MC simulations. The black line denotes the
prediction uncertainty estimated by the LWR.
Locally weighted regression
We conducted the experiments using LWR. Two important parameters of the LWR are
the number of neighbours and the weight function. Several experiments are done with a
different combination of these values and we report the best results obtained with 5
neighbours and the linear weight function. The comparison of performance of the LWR
with the two different input configurations is shown in Table 5.5.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
97
It can be seen that the model V11 is slightly better than the model V12 with respect
to the CoC values in the verification period. The CoC values for the lower and upper
limits are 0.892 and 0.923, respectively for the V11 model. For the V12 model they are
0.892 and 0.904, respectively. However, one can see that both models give similar
values of the PICP and MPI. Figure 5.16Figure 5.15 shows the comparison of the 90%
PIs estimated by the MC simulations with 2 different input configurations in the
verification period. The results are comparable with those obtained by the ANN and the
MT.
Comparison among ANN, MT and LWR
The predictive capability of different machine learning models in estimating the lower
and upper PIs are compared for the verification period and show in Figure 5.17Figure
5.16. All machine learning models used in this case study produce similar
performances. In particular, the ANNs are marginally better than the MT and the LWR.
Furthermore, by visual inspection of the hydrographs, one can see that the ANN
produces smooth uncertainty bounds compared to the other two. We also report the CoC
values of the prediction limits, and it appears that the accuracy is increased. It is
noteworthy to reiterate that the prediction limits are computed by adding the
corresponding optimal model output to the predicted PIs.
Figure 5.18 presents a summary of the comparison statistics (PICP and MPI) of the
uncertainty estimation. The ANN model is very close to the MC simulation results with
respect to both statistics. The MT and LWR are better than the ANN with respect to
MPI (note that a lower MPI is the indication of a better performance), however the
prediction limits estimated by them enclose a relatively lower percentage of the
observed values as compared to those of the ANN.
Figure 5.17. Performance of machine learning models measured by coefficient of correlation
(CoC) to reproduce the prediction intervals and limits. (a) Input data for upper PI is REt−9a,
Qt−1, ΔQt−1 (i.e. V11 configuration) and (b) input data for upper PI is REt−7a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1 (i.e.
V12 configuration). PIL and PIU denote lower and upper PI, respectively whereas PLL and
PLU denote lower and upper prediction limits, respectively.
98 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 5.18. A comparison of statistics of uncertainty (PICP and MPI) estimated by the MC
simulation, MT, LWR and ANN in the verification period. (a) Input data for the upper PI is
REt−9a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1 (i.e. V11 configuration) and (b) input data for the upper PI is REt−7a, Qt−1,
ΔQt−1 (i.e. V12 configuration).
Table 5.6. Performance criteria of machine learning models indicated by linguistic variables
Models
ANN
MT
LWR
CoC
High
Medium
Low
Accuracy
PICP and MPI
High
Low
Medium
Efficiency
Transparency
Rank
Medium
High
Low
Low
Medium
High
1
2
3
So far we compare the performance of three machine learning models through only
the accuracy of the prediction; however, there are other factors to be considered as well.
These include computational efficiency, simplicity or ease of use, flexibility,
transparency etc. They are shown in Table 5.6. We use linguistic variables to describe
these factors. It is observed that none of the models is superior with respect to all
factors; however one can favour the ANN if the ranking is done by giving equal weight
to all factors.
5.6.3 Modelling median and standard deviation
The MLUE method is also used to estimate the median and standard deviation of the
MC simulation results. Based on the correlation and AMI analysis, several input data
structures are considered. Among them the input data REt−8a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1 gives better
results for predicting the median, while REt−7a, Qt−1, ΔQt−1 gives better results for
predicting the standard deviation. Figure 5.19 shows a comparison of the ANN, MT and
LWR to predict the mean and standard deviation of the MC simulation results. One can
see that the median is overestimated by all three models except for one of the peaks
(Figure 5.19a). The ANN is marginally better than the other two models. As far as the
standard deviation is concerned, some peaks are underestimated and some are
overestimated. The performance of the machine learning models to predict the standard
deviation is a little bit low as compared to the median. Table 5.7 shows the CoC values
between the median and standard deviation of the MC simulations and predicted by the
three machine learning models.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
99
Table 5.7. Performances of artificial neural networks (ANN), model trees (MT), and locally
weighted regression (LWR) to predict the median and standard deviation of MC simulation.
Models
ANN
MT
LWR
Coefficient of correlation (CoC)
Median
Standard deviation
0.8953
0.848
0.8903
0.8729
0.8776
0.8352
Figure 5.19. A comparison of artificial neural networks (ANN), model trees (MT) and locally
weighted regression (LWR) to predict (a and b) median (c and d) standard deviation of the
MC simulations. Obs is the computed median (a and b) or standard deviation (c and d) of the
MC simulations.
5.6.4 Modelling probability distribution function
In section 5.6.2, we use machine learning methods to estimate the 90% PIs by building
two separate models for the two quantiles (i.e. 5% and 95% quantiles). However it is
possible to extend the methodology to predict several quantiles of the model outputs and
in this way to estimate the distribution functions (pdf or cdf) of the model output
generated by the MC simulations.
The procedure to estimate the pdf of the model output (generated by the MC
simulations) is given below:
1. Derive the cdf of the realizations of the MC simulations in the calibration data;
2. Select several quantiles of the cdf in such a way that these quantile can
approximate the cdf;
3. Compute the corresponding transferred prediction quantiles using equation
(4.6);
4. Construct and train separate machine learning models for each transferred
prediction quantile;
100 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
5. Use these models to predict the quantiles for the new input data vector;
6. Construct a cdf from these discrete quantiles by interpolation. This cdf will be
an approximation to the cdf of the MC simulations.
In this case study, we select 19 quantiles from 5% to 95% with uniform interval of
5%. Then an individual machine learning model is constructed for each quantile using
the same structure of the input data and model that was used in the previous
experiments. In principle, we could use a different structure for the input data and the
model; this will require additional experiments to achieve the optimal structure. For the
sake of simplicity we use the input configuration V11 for all quantiles.
The results are reported in Figure 5.20. The Figure 5.20a shows a comparison of the
cdf for the peak event of 1995/12/20 estimated by the three machine learning methods.
One can see that the cdf estimated by the ANN, MT and LWR are comparable and are
very close to the cdf of the MC simulations. We also compare the cdf for another peak
event of 1996/01/09 (see Figure 5.20b). It is observed that the cdf estimated by the
ANN, MT and LWR deviate a little bit more near the middle of it. From the visual
inspection we have impression that the cdf are reasonably approximated by the machine
learning methods. However, it may require a rigorous statistical test to conclude that if
the cdf estimated by the machine learning methods are not significantly different from
those of the MC simulations. In this case study, since we have limited data (only 19
points), the results of the significant test (e.g., Kolmogorov-Simrnov) may not be
reliable.
Figure 5.20. A comparison of cumulative distribution function (cdf) estimated with different
machine learning method. (a) Peak event of 1995/12/20 and (b) peak event of 1996/01/09.
Chapter 5. Application of MLUE method
101
By visual inspection we can say that the cdf estimated by machine learning methods
are reasonably close to those generated by the MCS. It is worth noting that we have not
optimised the model and the input data structure of the machine learning methods in the
presented results, hence there is hope to improve the results.
One issue of predicting the cdf by the above method is that if the machine learning
models are trained independently for several quantiles of the cdf, it cannot be
guaranteed that the estimated cdf is a monotonously increasing function. However, if
the machine learning models allow the prediction of multiple outputs (e.g., in ANN)
then one single model can be built to predict several quantiles simultaneously; and some
form of penalty function can be introduced during the training if the cdf is not
monotonously increasing. We anticipate future research in this direction.
5.7
Conclusions
This chapter presents the application of MLUE method to predict parameter uncertainty
in rainfall-runoff modelling. The Brue catchment (135 km2) located in South West of
England, UK, which has been extensively used for research on weather radar,
quantitative precipitation forecasting and rainfall-runoff modelling, is selected for the
study. Simplified version of the HBV conceptual model is chosen for the application of
the MLUE method. We analysed the parameter sensitivity of HBV model and derived
the posterior distribution of its parameters. We identified three groups of the parameters
based on the sensitivity analysis.
The GLUE method has been used to analyse the parameter uncertainty of the model.
We also investigate the convergence analysis of MC simulation in the GLUE method.
Several machine learning models have been applied to predict the uncertainty results
generated by the GLUE method. We have shown how domain knowledge and analytical
techniques are used to select the input data for the machine learning models used in the
MLUE method. Three machine learning models, namely artificial neural networks,
model trees, and locally weighted regression, are used to predict the uncertainty of the
model predictions. We predict several uncertainty measures such as standard deviation,
quantiles; and the pdf of MC realizations. The performance of the MLUE method is
measured by its predictive capability (e.g., coefficient of correlation, and RMSE) and
the statistics of the uncertainty (e.g., the prediction intervals coverage probability and
the mean prediction intervals). It is demonstrated that machine learning methods can
predict the uncertainty results with reasonable accuracy. The great advantage of the
MLUE method is that once the machine learning models are developed which is done
offline, it can predict the uncertainty of the model output in a fraction of second which
otherwise would take several hours or days of computation time by the MC based
uncertainty analysis methods.
Chapter 6
Machine Learning in
Prediction of Residual
Uncertainty: UNEEC Method
This chapter presents a novel methodology to analyse, model, and predict the
residual uncertainty which, for the purpose of this thesis, is considered to be
represented by the model residual errors. The methodology aims to predict the
uncertainty of an optimal (calibrated) model output by building machine learning
model of the probability distributions of its historical residuals. The novel feature
of the method is that the data to train the model is constructed in such a way that
it carries the information about the dependencies characteristic to the particular
regions of the input space (hydrometeorological and flow conditions). These
regions correspond to natural clusters of data in input space. This method is
referred to as UNcertainty Estimation based on Local Errors and Clustering
(UNEEC). This abbreviation may also stand for “uncertainty prediction method
developed at UNEsco-ihe in the framework of a project funded by EC”.
6.1
Introduction
In Chapter 5, we presented a novel methodology that uses machine learning method to
emulate the results of Monte Carlo (MC) simulations. MC is used when it is necessary
to study the influence of uncertainty or inputs on the uncertainty of the model output.
This is done by sampling the values of the uncertainty entities and running the model
for each sample.
However, in practice engineering decisions are often based on a single optimal
model run without any uncertainty analysis. Here the model optimality is understood in
the following sense: the model is calibrated, so that the model parameters and structure
are such that the model error is at minimum. However even such model simulates or
predicts the output variable with errors, so its output contains uncertainty. In this
chapter we present a novel methodology to estimate the uncertainty of the optimal
104 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
model output by analyzing historical model residuals errors. This method is referred to
as the UNcertainty Estimation based on Local Errors and Clustering (UNEEC) method.
We assume that the historical model residuals (errors) between the observed data y
and the corresponding model prediction ŷ are the adequate quantitative indicators of
the gap between the model and the real-world system or process, and they provide
valuable information that can be used to assess the model uncertainty. The residuals and
their distribution are often functions of the model input, and, possibly, state variables
and can be predicted by building a separate model mapping of the input space to the
model residuals, or to the distribution of the model error or at least some of its
characteristics. In other words, the idea here is to learn the relationship between the
input variables and the distribution of the model errors, and to use this information to
determine the distribution of the model error when it predicts the output variable (e.g.
runoff) in the future.
In this chapter the model residuals are used to quantify the uncertainty. However,
typically some strong assumptions about the distribution of such residuals are made:
(a)
Residual (m3/s)
500
0
-500
4
Sample Autocorrelation
(b)
100
1000 3000
Predicted discharge (m3/s)
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
-0.1
10
20
30
40
50
Lag
(c)
Probability
0.999
0.90
0.75
0.25
0.05
0.001
-500
0
Residual
500
Figure 6.1. Test of residuals analysis. (a) homoscedasticity, (b) independence and (c) normality.
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
105
• Model residuals have zero mean and constant variance.
• Model residuals are mutually uncorrelated.
• Model residuals are distributed normally.
Often in practice, most of the above assumptions are always violated (see, e.g.,
Sorooshian and Dracup, 1980; Xu, 2001). The analysis made for the considered case
study (Bagmati catchment, section 7.4 ) as shown in Figure 6.1 shows that residuals are
heteroscedastic, autocorrelated and not normal. This makes it not straightforward to
apply existing uncertainty analysis methods, if not impossible. For example, Thyer et al.
(2002). applied Box–Cox transformation (Box and Cox, 1964) to normalise
hydrological data before performing parameter uncertainty analysis of autoregressive
model. Meta-Gaussian model can be applied after transforming model residuals (see
section 2.8.5).
Generally the analysis of uncertainty consists of propagating the uncertainty of the
input, parameters etc. (which is measured by pdf) through the model by running it for
sufficient number of times and deriving the pdf of the model outputs. In this chapter, we
present a different approach to analyzing the uncertainty. We focus on residual
uncertainty which is defined as the remaining uncertainty of the optimal model. The
characteristics of the methodology are:
1. Residuals are used to characterize the uncertainty of the model prediction;
2. No assumptions are made about the distribution of the residuals;
3. The method uses the concept of the model optimality and does not involve any
additional runs of the process model;
4. Specialized uncertainty models are built for particular areas of the state space
(e.g., hydrometeorological condition). Clustering is used to identify these areas;
5. The uncertainty models are built using machine learning techniques;
6. The method is computationally efficient and can therefore be easily applied to
computationally demanding process models; and
7. The method can be applied easily to any existing model no matter whether it is
physically based, conceptual or data-driven.
6.2
Definition and sources of model errors
Since the notion of model errors is crucial to the UNEEC methodology, it is important
to define them. A model error or simply error is defined as the mismatch between an
observed output value and the corresponding model output or prediction. It is important
to distinguish between model residual and model error. The former is the difference
between observed output values and the corresponding model outputs in calibration
while the latter refers to the difference for prediction/validation.
106 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 6.2. Model prediction with the uncertainty bounds using the UNEEC method. The block
within the dashed line is the UNEEC method. There is also a linkage between “Model
residuals” and “Observed response” to “Clustering”.
Deterministic model M (also referred to as “primary model”) of a real-world system
predicting the system output variable y given the input vector x (x∈X) can be defined as
(see Figure 6.2):
yˆ = M (x, θ )
(6.1)
where ŷ is the model output and θ is a vector of all parameters of the model. Given
observed output values of y, the errors of the model predictions are denoted by:
ε = y − yˆ
(6.2)
Equations (6.1) and (6.2) can be summarized by:
y = M ( x, θ ) + ε
(6.3)
In equation (6.2) ε is the total remaining (or residual) error which incorporates the
measurement errors, εx, on the input data, measurement errors, εy on the output data, the
parameter errors, εθ, and the model structure errors, εs (see section 2.4 for descriptions
of the different sources of uncertainties). It can be decomposed as:
y = M ( x, θ ) + ε s + εθ + ε x + ε y
(6.4)
In most practical cases, however it is difficult to estimate the error components of
equation (6.4) unless some very strong assumptions are made. Thus, the different
components that contribute to the total model errors are generally treated as a single
lumped variable as given in equation (6.3). In this chapter by the model error we
understand the total residual error ε which is an aggregate effect of all sources of errors.
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
6.3
107
Methodology
The UNEEC method estimates the uncertainty associated with the given model structure
M, and the parameter set θ by analysing the historical model residuals ε, which is an
aggregate effect of all sources of errors. Thus, the uncertainty estimated with the
UNEEC method is valid only for the given model structure and parameter set θ. It does
not mean that the model structure and parameter uncertainty are ignored, but it is
assumed that the uncertainty associated with the wrong model structure, inaccurate
parameter values, and observational errors (if any) are manifested implicitly in the
model residuals. This type of uncertainty analysis based on the model residuals is
different from the classical uncertainty analysis methods where uncertainty of
parameters, input data (presented by pdf) or plausible model structures are propagated
to the pdf of the output.
The UNEEC method starts by selecting the single best model structure from the
plausible model structures in reproducing the observed behaviour of the system. This
ensures that the uncertainty associated with the wrong choice of the model structure is
reduced as much as possible. Then it requires the prior identification of an optimal
model parameter set, which can be achieved by a calibration procedure aimed at
minimizing some error function. This ensures minimizing the uncertainty associated
with an inaccurate estimate of parameter values. Observational errors can be reduced by
the improved observational techniques and understanding of the characteristics of such
errors. There still remains uncertainty which cannot be reduced further because the
model error ε cannot be eliminated completely. This uncertainty is defined here in this
thesis as residual uncertainty. The best we can do is to use this optimal model to predict
the output variable of interest and provide the uncertainty estimation based on the
analysis of the historical residuals. The aim here is to build a model to estimate the pdf
of the model error ε conditioned to the input and/or state variables of the process model.
Since the predictive uncertainty of the model output is more important than the pdf
of the model error, the latter is then transferred to the predictive uncertainty by using
information on the model predictions (described later in the section). Note that even
when the optimal process model is used to produce a deterministic prediction, it does
not, however, exclude the possibility of using some combination (ensemble) of “good”
(but not optimal) models having the same structure but different in the values of the
parameters – which could result from a Monte Carlo exercise. This possibility, however,
is not addressed in this study.
The main steps in the UNEEC methodology are:
1. Clustering the input data in order to identify the subsets of more-or-less similar
points;
2. Estimating the probability distribution of the model residuals for the subsets
identified by clustering;
3. Building the machine learning model of the probability distribution of the model
error.
108 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 6.3 The generalized framework of the UNEEC method. The UNEEC method has three
steps: clustering, estimation of the probability distribution of the model error, and building
model U for probability distribution of the error. Once the model U is trained in the
calibration data set (Xu), the model can be used to predict the probability distribution of the
model error in a new or unseen data set (e.g., validation data).
These steps are described in the following subsections (see Figure 6.3).
6.3.1 Clustering input data
Clustering of data is an important step of the UNEEC method. Its goal is to partition the
data into several natural groups that can be distinguished. By data we understand here
the vectors of some variable (input) space, and input space here means not only the
input variables of the process model, but also all the relevant state variables which
characterize different mechanisms of the modelled process, e.g. runoff generation
process. The input data which belong to the same cluster will have similar
characteristics and correspond to similar real-life situations. Furthermore, the
distributions of the model errors within different clusters have different characteristics.
This seems to be a strong assumption of the UNEEC method, which would be
reasonable to test before applying it. In hydrological modelling this assumption seems
to be quite natural: a hydrological model is often inaccurate in simulating extreme
events (high consecutive rainfalls) which can be identified in one group by the process
of clustering – resulting in high model residuals (wide error distribution). When data in
each cluster belongs to a certain “class” (in this case, a hydrological situation), local
error models can be built: they will be more robust and accurate than the global model
which is fitted on the whole data.
Before clustering the input data, the most relevant input variables should be selected
from the data D. Since clustering is unsupervised learning where the desired output of
the system being studied is not known in advance, the selection of the variables in
application to the process model is done by incorporating domain (hydrological)
knowledge. The data set Xc is the matrix of input data constructed from the data D for
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
109
Figure 6.4. Example of clustering the input space of rainfall-runoff model. (a) Hard clustering
(e.g. K-means) and (b) soft clustering (e.g. fuzzy C-means clustering).
partitioning into several natural groups (clusters). Additional analysis between model
residuals and variables constituting D may be needed to choose the appropriate
variables for building Xc from D. Often Xc encompasses the variables of D and
additional lagged vectors of some subset of variables of D based on correlation and/or
average mutual information (AMI) analysis.
In order to partition the input space Xc, different clustering algorithms (e.g., Kmeans, fuzzy clustering) can be used. Due to the fuzzy nature of many practical
problems, fuzzy clustering has an advantage over K-means clustering by explicitly
taking into account the uncertainty associated with the vagueness and imprecision of the
uncertainty sources. Figure 6.4 shows the example of clustering in rainfall-runoff
modelling. The inputs to the clustering are constructed from the input and output of the
rainfall-runoff model.
6.3.2 Estimating probability distribution of model errors
Typically the process model is non-linear and contains many parameters. This will
hinder the analytical estimation of the pdf of the model error. Thus the empirical pdf of
the model error for each cluster is independently estimated by analysing historical
model residuals on the calibration data. In order to avoid a biased estimate of the pdf or
its quantiles of the model error, it is important to check if there is any over-fitting by the
process model on the calibration data. It is also possible to use leave-one-out crossvalidation (Cawley et al., 2004) to overcome the bias estimate of the quantiles if the
computational burden of running the process model is not prohibitive. However, such a
cross-validation technique may be impractical in hydrological modelling because of the
computational load resulting from training multiple models. Another solution is to use a
separate calibration sample data set that has not been used to calibrate the model,
provided enough data are available. Note that when dealing with limited calibration
data, the empirical distribution might be a very poor approximation of the theoretical
distribution, so the reliability of such a method depends on the availability of data.
110 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
∑ μi,t
n
∑ μi,t
i =1
n
(1 − α / 2)∑ μi,t
i =1
n
α / 2∑ μi ,t
i =1
Figure 6.5. Example of cumulative distribution function of the model error weighted by fuzzy
membership function. In this example “lower interval” corresponds to the α/2⋅100 % error
quantile and “upper interval” corresponds to the (1-α/2)⋅100 % error quantile, where α is
significance level (0< α <1) and 1-α is corresponding confidence level.
Since the pdf of the model error is estimated for each cluster, it depends on the
clustering method used. For example, in the case of K-means clustering where each
instance of data belongs to only one cluster, the quantiles are taken from the empirical
error distribution for each cluster independently. However, in the case of the fuzzy
clustering method (FCM) where each instance belongs to more than one cluster, and is
associated with several membership functions, the computation of the quantiles should
take this into account. The pth [0, 1] quantile of the model error for cluster i is given by:
ecip = ε t
t
n
k =1
t =1
t : ∑ μi,k < p ∑ μi,t
(6.5)
where t is the maximum integer value running from unity that satisfies the above
inequality, εt is the residual associated with the tth data (data are sorted with respect to
the associated residual), and μi,t is the membership function of the tth data to cluster i.
This is not the only way of calculating quantiles for fuzzy clusters. An alternative would
be to use the threshold of the membership degree in selecting the points to be included
in sorting for each cluster.
Figure 6.5 shows the cumulative distribution function of the model errors weighted
by corresponding fuzzy membership function, from which any desired pth quantile can
be estimated by linear interpolation. The figure also shows the example of computing
(1-α)⋅100 % prediction intervals of the model error by estimating two quantiles, i.e.,
α/2⋅100 % error quantile (often termed lower intervals) and (1-α/2)⋅100 % error
quantile (upper intervals).
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
111
6.3.3 Building model for probability distribution of model errors
Having the pdf or some quantiles of the process model error for each individual cluster
{ecip }ic=1 and outputs of the clustering i.e. partition matrix and cluster centres, the next
step is to approximate the pdf or quantile of the model error for the input data vector xt.
The machine learning model which is built to predict the pdf of the model error for the
new data input, is referred to as an “uncertainty model U” and can be built using several
approaches (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2008) as presented below.
Using eager learning classifiers
The goal here is to build a classifier as an uncertainty model U given the input data
matrix X, results of clustering analysis {P, V}, and the quantile of the model error for
each cluster {ecip }ic=1 , where P is the partition matrix and V is the matrix of clustering
centres (see section 3.8). First, the classifier is trained on the input data matrix Xu and
the cluster labels {Ci }ic=1 as class values (i.e. this classifier uses so-called eager
learning). Second, the trained classifier is used to classify the new data input xt to one of
the cluster. Last, the quantile of the model error for the new data input xt is
approximated by taking the quantile of the corresponding clusters.
Figure 6.6. Flow chart of the UNEEC method using an eager learning classifier.
112 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
The choice of variables for input data matrix Xu may require some analysis to ensure
the accuracy of the classifier. This method is applicable for non-overlapping clustering
(such as, for instance, K-means clustering). The method ignores the variation of the
error distribution (or quantiles) inside the cluster, hence the input data which belongs to
the same cluster has the same value of the quantile of the model error distribution. The
disadvantage of the method is that the transition between the quantile estimated across
the input data is not smooth. The flow chart to estimate the quantile of the model error
by this method is given in Figure 6.6.
Using a committee of instance-based (lazy) learning classifiers
In instance-based learning methods, instead of building a classifier, a distance function
d(vi, xt) between the centres of the cluster Ci (where vi is the vector of centre of the
cluster Ci) and the new input data xt is used to classify xt to the particular cluster. The
new data xt will be assigned to the cluster Ci such that a distance function d(vi, xt’) is
minimum. Mathematically it is expressed as:
xt ∈ Ci : min(d ( vi , xt ))
(6.6)
Another variant of instance based learning for the estimation of the quantiles of the
model error using the so called fuzzy committee approach is shown in Figure 6.7.
Instead of assigning an input vector to a particular cluster, fuzzy membership weights
wi,t are computed using the distance functions d(vi, xt) between input data xt and the
cluster centres {vi }ic=1 . These fuzzy membership weights μi,t reflect the proximities of
the input data to the cluster centres. There are many different ways of defining a
distance function, and it is hard to find rational grounds for choosing any one in
particular. Typically, the relation between weight and distance functions takes the form
of
(6.7)
wi,t = d ( vi , xt )−2 / m
where m is the smoothing exponential coefficient, d(vi, xt) is the ordinary Euclidean
distance between cluster centres vi and the input data vector xt. The smaller value of m
(≈0.25) gives relatively higher weight to the least distance while the higher value of it
(≈100) gives almost equal weights.
Once the fuzzy weights are computed, the quantiles of the model error for the new
input data xt can be computed using the fuzzy committee approach as:
c
c
i =1
i =1
etp = ∑ wi2,t/ m ecip / ∑ wi2,t/ m
(6.8)
where etp is the pth quantile of the pdf of the error. It should be noted that equation (6.8)
is indeed a soft combination of the quantiles of each cluster depending upon the
membership function values. This formulation has an additional advantage of
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
113
Figure 6.7. Flow chart of the UNEEC method using fuzzy committee of instance based classifiers.
smoothing the quantiles across the input data. The smoothing can be increased with a
higher value of m (e.g., m = 100 gives almost equal weights for all clusters).
Using regression methods
In the presented methods, first the pdf (or its quantiles) of the model error is estimated
for the individual input data vector where the information about the model residuals is
known (e.g., in the calibration data). Since the empirical pdf of the model error for the
clusters are already computed following the method described in the subsection 6.3.2,
the input data being the member of the clusters share this information of distribution.
(It is worth mentioning that the estimation of quantiles for the individual input data
vector depends on the types of clustering techniques employed. For example, in Kmeans clustering the input data share the same information of the pdf of the error for a
particular cluster, thus ignoring the variation of the error distribution inside the cluster.
However, there are other possibilities such as using a distance function (distance
between the centres of the cluster to the input vector, e.g., equation (6.7)) as a weight to
vary the error distribution).
In the case of fuzzy clustering the fuzzy committee approach as described in the
section on instance-based learning methods (see equation (6.8)), is used to compute the
quantiles for each individual input data vector. Once the quantiles of the pdf of the
model error for each example in the training data are obtained, the machine learning
model U (that estimates the underlying functional relationships between the input vector
xu and the computed quantiles) is constructed:
114 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 6.8. Flow chart of the UNEEC method using regression method.
e p = U p ( xu ; θ p )
(6.9)
where θ p is the parameters vector of the model U p for the pth quantile. Note that the
calibration data set for the model U is (Xu, ep), where Xu is the input data constructed
from X described below, and ep is a vector of pth quantiles. Thus the model U, after
being trained on input data Xu, encapsulates the pdf of the model error and maps the
input xu to the pdf or the quantiles of the process model error.
The model U can take any form, from linear to non-linear regression models, such as
neural networks. The choice of the model depends on many factors including the
complexity of the problem to be handled and the availability of data etc. Once the model
U is trained on the calibration data Xu, it can be employed to estimate the quantiles or
the pdf of the model error for the new data input (e.g., new hydrometrological condition
in rainfall-runoff modelling).
6.4
Computation of predictive uncertainty of model output
In the previous sections 6.3.1-6.3.3, we proposed a method to predict the pdf (or its
quantile) of the process model error. As previously mentioned, the predicted quantiles
of the pdf of the model error should be transferred to a more meaningful and
understandable entity – the predictive uncertainty of the model output. The quantile of
the predictive uncertainty of the tth model output can be estimated as:
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
115
(6.10)
ytp = yˆt + etp
where yˆt is the tth output simulated by the process model, ytp is the pth quantile of the
tth model output, and etp is the pth quantile of the model error corresponding to the tth
model output. One can see that equation (6.10) is the reformulation of equation (6.2).
Often uncertainty of the model output is represented by the prediction intervals. ⋅(1 α)⋅100% prediction intervals of the model output are estimated by computing the
α/2⋅100% and (1-α/2)⋅100% quantiles of the model output, where (1 - α)⋅100% is the
confidence level and α is the significance level used to compute the confidence level.
For example, α of 0.05 indicates a 95 percent confidence level. These two quantiles
α/2⋅100% and (1-α/2)⋅100% are termed as lower and upper prediction limits of the (1 α)⋅100% prediction intervals, respectively and estimated by equation (6.10) as follows:
PLtL (α ) = ytα / 2 = yˆt + etα / 2
PLUt (α )
=
yt(1−α / 2)
=
(6.11)
yˆt + et(1−α / 2)
where PLtL (α ) and PLUt (α ) are the lower and upper prediction limits corresponding to α
significance level (i.e., 1-α confidence level). etα / 2 and et(1−α / 2) are two error quantiles
estimated by building two independent models Uα/2 and U (1-α/2) following equation (6.8)
as
etα / 2 = U α / 2 (xu ; θ α / 2 )
(6.12)
et(1−α / 2) = U (1−α / 2) (xu ; θ (1−α / 2) )
For example, in order to estimate the 90% prediction interval of the model output, it is
necessary to build two models, U5 and U95 that will predict the 5% and 95% quantiles of
the model errors, respectively. It is worthwhile to mention that the input variables used
to build these two independent models might be different, and are discussed in section
6.5.
6.5
Selection of input variables
The selection of appropriate and relevant input variables for machine learning
models used in the UNEEC method is done using the similar approach described in the
MLUE method (see section 4.6) and is not described here.
6.6
Validation of UNEEC method
The UNEEC method is validated by: (i) measuring the predictive capability of the
uncertainty model U (e.g., using root mean squared error); (ii) measuring the statistics
116 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
of the uncertainty estimation; and (iii) visualizing plots of the prediction intervals with
the observed hydrograph.
Validation of model U, however, is not straightforward due to the following. A
validation procedure typically assumes that for a new situation (e.g., in rainfall-runoff
model, new values of rainfall, runoff, etc.) it is possible to compare the output variable
value calculated by the model (say, the 5% quantile calculated by the model U5) to the
corresponding “measured” value. However, it is impossible to measure the value of a
quantile (in this case a 5% quantile) whereas it is possible to validate the performance of
model M since it is possible to measure the runoff. One may argue that if there is a large
validation data set available, it is possible to generate the quantiles in the validation data
set either (i) directly from the whole set; or (ii) from the clusters found in the validation
set using the same procedure adopted when building the model U. However, in option
(i) the comparison would not be fair since the model U uses different (local, clusterbased) models of uncertainty, and in option (ii) the clusters generated will be different
from those generated during building of U and hence the comparison would not be
proper either.
Shrestha et al. (2006) proposed a partial solution to validate the model U. This is
described here. The calibration data Xu was divided into two parts: training data, which
constitutes the major part of the calibration data (in this study, 67%), were selected
randomly from the calibration pool without replacement. The training data are used to
train the model U. The remaining data from the pool is the cross-validation (or test)
data set which is used to perform “intermediate” tests of the model U with the purpose
to select its structure, parameters and the input variables. Random (or close to random)
selection ensures statistical similarity of these data sets. Once the model U is tested on
the cross-validation (test) data set, the model U with the best structure can be re-trained
on the full calibration data so as to increase its accuracy.
Even though the quantiles of the model error and, consequently, the quantiles of the
model output are not observable in the validation data set, it is interesting to know if the
distribution of the observed data fits the distribution predicted by model U. When
predicting only two quantiles (or prediction interval, PI), this problem is equivalent to
counting how many of the observed values are inside the prediction interval. In this
case, validation of the UNEEC method can be done by evaluating two statistics: the
prediction interval coverage probability (PICP) and the mean prediction interval (MPI).
These uncertainty statistics is described in section 4.7. In principle, these statistics can
also be computed individually for each cluster by training a classifier that would be able
to attribute the new input vectors to one of the clusters or by computing the distance
between the new input vectors and the cluster centroid vectors.
6.7
Limitations and possible extensions of method
Machine learning methods, which constitute the core of the UNEEC method, have
particular limitations. These limitations have been already discussed in section 4.8 in
Chapter 6. Machine learning in prediction of residual uncertainty: UNEEC method
117
relation to the MLUE method and most of them are also valid in relation to the UNEEC
method.
UNEEC method allows for useful extensions. As mentioned above, this method
relies on the concept of model optimality instead of equifinality. If the assumption of
the existence of the single ‘‘best’’ model is not valid, then all of the models that are
considered ‘‘good’’ should be considered, as it is done when the concept of equifinality
is adopted. This can be achieved by combining such models in an ensemble, or by
generating the meta models of uncertainty for each possible combination of the model
structure and parameter set, or even involving the uncertainty associated with the input
data. Consequently, instead of having a single set of uncertainty bounds for each
forecast, there will be a set of such bounds generated. However, the use of such several
uncertainty bounds in the decision making process would be really challenging.
Chapter 7
Application of Machine
Learning Method to Predict
Residual Uncertainty
This chapter presents the application of UNEEC (machine learning method to
predict residual uncertainty) method to estimate uncertainty in the model
prediction for the four different case studies. In first one, synthetic data set
(where the exact solution is known) is used to demonstrate the method’s
capability. The second case study is a typical river flow forecasting problem of
the Sieve catchment in Italy. In this study the river flow forecasts are made by
several data-driven techniques such as artificial neural networks, model trees,
and locally weighted regression. The third case study considers a conceptual
rainfall-runoff model of the Brue catchment in United Kingdom. The
Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning (HBV) model is used to simulate
hourly river flows data. In the fourth case study, we apply the UNEEC method to
a rainfall-runoff model of the Bagmati catchment in Nepal. The HBV model is
used to simulate daily river flows data. In all these case studies, the results are
compared with other existing uncertainty methods including the generalised
likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE), the meta-Gaussian, and the quantile
regression methods.
7.1
Application 1: Synthetic data set2
We apply the UNEEC method to estimate the uncertainty of model prediction for a
synthetic data set. Synthetic data set is generated by simple linear regression models
where there exists an analytical solution for uncertainty estimation.
2
Based on: Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Machine learning approaches for
estimation of prediction interval for the model output. Neural Networks, 19(2), pp. 225-235.
120 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
7.1.1 Linear regression model of synthetic data set
The synthetic data is generated using bivariate input variables x uniformly distributed
between [0, 1]. The true targets yt are given by:
yt = ft (x) = b1 x1 + b2 x2
(7.1)
where b1 and b2 are linear regression coefficients and arbitrary values of these
coefficients: b1=12 and b2 =7 are used in the experiments. Since noise is inherent to any
real data set, we also add additive noise ε to yt to obtain a new target y, which is
estimated by the function ff as:
y = yt + ε = f f (x)
(7.2)
The noise ε has a Gaussian distribution N(0, σt/SNR). SNR is the signal-to-noise ratio
defined by:
SNR = σ t / σ ε
(7.3)
where σt and σε are the standard deviations of the target y and noise ε, respectively.
Given training data set {xi, yi}, i=1, …, n, where n is the number of training data, the
problem is to find the coefficients b1 and b2 using the least squares method. Once the
linear regression model is built, the regression model is used to predict the new data
vector while UNEEC method is used to estimate the uncertainty of the model
prediction.
7.1.2 Prediction interval for linear regression
In regression problems, the task is to estimate an unknown function f(x; θ) given a set of
input-target pairs D = {xi, yi}, i = 1, ..., n, where θ is the true values of the set of
parameters of the regression model. The function f(x; θ) is related with the true target y
by
yi = f (x i ;θ ) + ei
(7.4)
where ei is the model error and is assumed to be independently and identically (iid)
distributed with variance σ2 and the distribution has the form N(0,σ2). The least-square
estimate of parameters θ is θˆ , which is obtained by minimizing the cost function:
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
n
C (θ ) = ∑ [ yi − yˆi ]2
121
(7.5)
i =1
(7.6)
yˆi = f (x i ;θˆ)
where yˆi is the model output. The model output may not necessarily match the target y
due to various reasons including the presence of noise in the data, limited number of
data points, non-linear relationship between the dependent and independent variables,
and the errors in estimating the parameters. In order to simplify the formulation, it is
assumed that the regression model is linear and univariate; so equation (7.6) can be
rewritten as:
(7.7)
ˆ i + bˆ
yˆi = ax
where â and b̂ are estimated parameters of the linear regression.
Most of the methods to construct (1- α )⋅100% prediction limit for the model output
typically assume the error has a Gaussian distribution with zero mean and σ standard
deviation. The prediction limits are given by:
PLU = yˆ + zα / 2σ
(7.8)
PL = yˆ − zα / 2σ
L
where PLU and PLL are the upper and lower prediction limits, respectively, zα/2 is the
value of the standard normal variate with cumulative probability level of α/2. Since the
prediction limits in equation (7.8) are symmetric about yˆi , it is assumed that the
prediction is unbiased. Consequently, the model error variance σ2 equals the mean
squared error (MSE), often called the prediction mean squared error (PMSE)
(Chatfield, 2000). However, σ2 is not known in practice and is estimated from the data.
An unbiased estimate of σ2 with n - p degrees of freedom, denoted by s2, is given by the
formula:
s 2 = SSE / (n-2) =
1 n
∑ ( yi − yˆi )2
n − 2 i =1
(7.9)
where p is number of parameters in the model and SSE is the sum squared error.
If the error variance s2 is not constant in the output space, then equation (7.9) should
be modified as follows (Harnett and Murphy, 1980; Wonnacott and Wonnacott, 1990):
122 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
(7.10)
s 2yi = s 2 (1 + 1/ n + ( xi − x ) 2 /(n − 1) sx2 )
where s x2 and x are the sample standard deviation and mean, respectively. It can be
seen that the error variance for the output yi is always larger than s2 and it is dependent
on how far xi is away from x . For multivariate linear regression equation (7.10) can be
modified as:
(7.11)
s 2yi = s 2 (1 + xTi ( X T X ) −1 x i )
where X is a matrix of input space, appended to a column of 1’s as the leftmost column
and xi is ith row of matrix X. In this thesis, this method will be referred to as analytical
approach method.
7.1.3 Experimental setup
Total of 1500 bivariate data are generated using equation (7.2). We vary the noise level
by taking the following SNR values: 1, 3, 5 and 7. Two-thirds of data set is selected
randomly to constitute the training data set, and the rest constitutes the test or
verification data set.
For a given data set, the prediction or primary model ff was built using the training
data set. The model’s objective of which is to estimate the target t as closely as possible.
Then the trained model was used to predict the targets for the new input data set.
Having the model outputs for the test data set, the UNEEC method was applied to
estimate the PI on the test data set as follows. The Fuzzy C-means clustering technique
was first employed to construct the prediction interval (PI) for each cluster in the
training data set and then to construct the PI for each instance in the training data set.
Note that the input to the uncertainty model U for the UNEEC method may constitute
part or all of input variables, which are used in the prediction model ff. The targets for
the uncertainty model U are the upper and lower PIs.
Table 7.1. Summary of input data and regression models used in the experiments.
Experiment
SNR
Input variables for primary Model
Target
model, clustering and
variable
UNEEC method
Primary
UNEEC
S1
1
y
x1, x2
LR
LR
S3
3
y
x1, x2
LR
LR
S4
4
y
x1, x2
LR
LR
S7
7
y
x1, x2
LR
LR
The PIs are constructed for 95% confidence level unless specified. The performance
of the UNEEC model is assessed by the prediction interval coverage probability (PICP)
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
123
and the mean prediction interval (MPI). Four experiments are considered as shown in
Table 7.1.
7.1.4 Results and discussions
The two performance indicators: PICP and MPI are calculated for the UNEEC and the
analytical approach (see Table 7.2), and are shown in Figure 7.1. It is worthwhile to
mention that the linear regression model is used as an uncertainty model in the UNEEC
method. It can be seen that the UNEEC method appears to perform better for data with
high noise if compared to the analytical approach. For lower noise the PICPs statistics
of the UNEEC method are close to desired degree of confidence level (i.e. in this case
95%). However, the PICP for the analytical approach deviates slightly from the desired
95% confidence level. For all noise levels, the MPI values for the analytical approach
are wider than those for the UNEEC method. Note that the uncertainty increases as the
noise increases.
16
14
3
MPI (m /s)
12
10
8
6
4
2
92.5
93.5
94.5
PICP %
95.5
96.5
Figure 7.1. Comparison of performance. Black blocks refer to the UNEEC method, the grey
blocks—to the analytical approach. The size of marker represents the noise level (i.e., bigger
marker – higher noise).
Table 7.2. Comparison of results on test data set for linear regression models
Experiment
Prediction Analytical method
error (m3/s) PIPC (%) MPI (m3/s)
UNEEC method
PIPC (%)
MPI (m3/s)
S1
4.01
92.67
15.33
93.60
15.17
S3
1.34
94.80
5.24
95.60
5.21
S4
0.77
96.60
3.22
95.40
3.05
S7
0.58
95.40
2.28
95.00
2.26
7.1.5 Conclusions
In this study, we apply the UNEEC method to a synthetic data set generated by simple
linear regression model where there exists an analytical solution for uncertainty
estimation. We add noises to the output variable of synthetic data set. The results
124 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
obtained with the synthetic data set show that the UNEEC method gives the consistently
narrower uncertainty bounds than those of the analytical approach. The uncertainty
obviously increases when the noise is added to the data. This simple application
demonstrates that the UNEEC method is as good as the analytical approach and method
can be used for real life applications.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
7.2
125
Application 2: Sieve River catchment3
This application presents the UNEEC method to a typical river flow forecasting
problem. Flow forecasts with several lead times are made by data-driven modelling
techniques, namely artificial neural networks (ANN), model trees (MT), locally
weighted regression (LWR). Then we apply the UNEEC method to estimate the
uncertainty in the flow forecasting for a medium sized catchment, namely the Sieve
catchment in Italy.
7.2.1 Flow forecasting model of the Sieve River catchment
Sieve is a tributary of the Arno River (see Figure 7.2) and located on the Apennines
Mountains in Tuscany, North-Central Italy. The Sieve catchment consists mostly of
hills, forests and mountainous areas except in the valley with an average elevation of
470 m above sea level. The climate of the catchment is temperate and humid. The
catchment has an area of 822 Km2. 3 months of hourly runoff discharge, precipitation
and potential evapotranspiration data were available (December 1959 to February
1960), which represent various types of hydrological conditions and flows range from
low to very high.
Figure 7.2. Sieve catchment. Triangles show the rainfall stations; the flow is measured at the
Fornacina gauge station.
The discharge data were available at the closure section of Fornacina. The spatial
average of hourly rainfall from 11 rain gauge stations was calculated by Thiessen
polygon method and hourly evapotranspiration data were calculated using radiation
3
Based on: Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Machine learning approaches for
estimation of prediction interval for the model output. Neural Networks, 19(2), pp. 225-235.
126 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
method. The Arno catchment that includes the Sieve catchment has been extensively
studied in various modelling exercises (Todini, 1996; Solomatine and Dulal, 2003;
Solomatine et al., 2008).
We consider three forecasting models corresponding to 1, 3 and 6 hours lead time
denoted by SieveQ1, SieveQ3 and SieveQ6, respectively. For each model, several
machine learning techniques, namely ANN, MT, LWR and linear regression are built.
The selection of the input variables for the forecasting models is based on the methods
discussed in section 3.8.3. Visual joint inspection of a number of peak rainfall events
and the resulting hydrographs shows that on average the time lag between several peak
rainfalls and runoffs is between 5 and 7 hours. Additional analysis of lags is performed
using the average mutual information (AMI) and cross correlation analysis of rainfall
and runoff. The cross correlation between the rainfall and runoff increases with the lag,
reaches a maximum of 0.75 when the lag is 6 hours, and then starts to decreases (Figure
7.3). These results are consistent with the AMI analysis.
Besides rainfall, previous flows can also be used as input variables in the model,
since they also have a high correlation with the future flows. The choice of the
appropriate number of previous flows is based on analysing their autocorrelation. The
autocorrelation coefficient is close to unity for a 1 hour lag and decreases as the lag
increases. Based on these analyses, forecasting models of the Sieve catchment are
formulated as below:
Qt +1 = f f ( REt , REt −1 , REt − 2 , REt −3 , REt − 4 , REt −5 , Qt , Qt −1 , Qt − 2 )
(7.12)
Qt +3 = f f ( REt , REt −1 , REt − 2 , REt −3 , Qt , Qt −1 )
Qt + 6 = f f ( REt , Qt )
1.0
0.30
0.8
0.25
0.20
0.6
0.15
0.4
AMI
CoC
where, Qt+1, Qt+3,, Qt+6 are flows at 1, 3, and 6 hours lead time.
0.10
0.2
0.05
0.0
0.00
0
5
10
15
Time lag (hours)
Cross-correlation
Autocorrelation
20
AMI
Figure 7.3. Correlation and average mutual information (AMI) analysis between the forecast
variable Qt+1 and basin average rainfall and autocorrelation of Qt+1.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
127
Table 7.3. Statistical properties of the runoff data sets
Statistical properties
Available data
Training set
Verification set
Period (yyyy/mm/dd
hh:mm)
Number of data
Average (m3/s)
Minimum (m3/s)
Maximum (m3/s)
Standard deviation (m3/s)
1959/12/01 07:00 1960/02/28 00:00
2154
54.9
10.7
752.6
70.2
1959/12/13 19:00 1960/02/28 00:00
1854
53.1
10.7
752.6
73.0
1959/12/01 07:00 1959/12/13 18:00
300
66.8
17.6
299.9
48.7
Splitting of the available data set into training and testing is done based on the
research of Solomatine and Dulal (2003) and Solomatine et al. (2008) and is not
discussed here. Records between 1959/12/13 19:00 and 1960/02/28 00:00 are used to
form the training data set, and the first 300 records (1959/12/01 07:00 to 1959/12/13 18:
00) are used as the test data. The some statistical properties of runoff data sets are
presented in Table 7.3.
7.2.2 Experimental setup
Several linear and non-linear models are built for the river flow forecasting of the
Sieve River catchment. As in the case of using the synthetic data set, first the primary
forecasting model ff is built using the training data set. Then the UNEEC method is
applied to estimate the forecast uncertainty. In principle, the structure or even the class
of the primary model and the UNEEC model U can be different (for example we may
use neural networks for the primary model and linear regression for the UNEEC model).
For the purpose of comparison to other methods, we employ the same class of
regression model. Table 7.4 presents the summary of the input data and regression
models used in the experiments.
Table 7.4. Summary of input data and regression models used in the experiments.
Target
variable
Input variables for primary
model, clustering and UNEEC
method
Model
Primary
UNEEC
SieveQ1Bivar
Qt+1
REt-5, Qt
LR
LR
SieveQ3Bivar
Qt+3
REt-2, Qt
LR
LR
SieveQ1
Qt+1
REt, REt-1, REt-2, REt-3, REt-4,
REt-5, Qt, Qt-1, Qt-2
LR, LWR,
ANN, MT
LR, LWR, ANN,
MT
SieveQ3
Qt+3
REt, REt-1, REt-2, REt-3, Qt, Qt-1,
LR, LWR,
ANN, MT
LR, LWR, ANN,
MT
SieveQ6
Qt+6
REt, Qt
LR, LWR,
ANN, MT
LR, LWR, ANN,
MT
Experiment
Note: SieveQ1Bivar and SieveQ3Bivar represent the experiments with bivariate inputs to
forecasting models for 1 hour and 3 hours lead time, respectively. LR – linear regression.
128 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Bivariate linear regression model is built using only the two most influencing input
variables (i.e., variables with the highest correlation and AMI with the output). The
input variables are extended according to equation (7.12). To investigate the effect of
models’ complexity on the estimated uncertainty bounds, experiments are also
conducted using ANN, MT and LWR as both primary and uncertainty models.
7.2.3 Results and discussions
Analysis of clustering
Figure 7.4 shows the Xie-Beni separation index S used to determine the optimal number
of clusters. This number corresponds to the minimum value of the S index. The optimal
number of clusters is between 4 and 6. We also validate the optimal number of clusters
by estimating the PIs using different numbers of clusters. The results are presented in
Figure 7.5. It is observed that the percentage of the observed discharge falling inside the
computed 95% PIs (i.e. PICP) is close the desired degree of confidence level (i.e. 95%)
at 6 number of clusters. However, the number of clusters corresponding to the minimum
MPI is 4. In order to balance PICP and MPI, the number of clusters chosen for all the
experiments was 5. Note that all the experiments were performed with the exponential
exponent m equal to 2 in fuzzy clustering. As the value of m approaches unity,
clustering is close to the exclusive clustering (e.g. K-means), and as the value of m
increases, the degree of fuzziness increases.
Figure 7.6 shows the clustering of input examples in the Sieve catchment for a 1
hour ahead prediction of the runoff (SieveQ1 data set). The results show that the input
examples with very high runoff have maximum fuzzy membership function values to
Cluster 1 (denoted by C1). Whereas the input examples with very low values of runoff
have maximum fuzzy membership function values to Cluster C5. Table 7.5 shows the
computed PIs for the clusters for the SieveQ1 data set using the 95% degree confidence
level (i.e. α = 0.05). The results from the prediction model (in this case MT) are biased
and the model underestimates the target value Qt+1 in the SieveQ1 data set. Bias in the
model predictions arises for many reasons including the skewed distribution of the
Figure 7.4. Xie-Beni separation index S to find the optimal number of clusters.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
129
Figure 7.5. Sensitivity of PICP and MPI with different numbers of clusters for the SieveQ1 data
set. M5 model trees are employed as the primary and the UNEEC model.
800
C1
C2
C3
C4
C5
700
3
Discharge (m /s)
600
500
400
300
200
100
0
0
200
400
600
800
1000
Time (hours)
1200
1400
1600
1800
Figure 7.6. Clustering of the input examples in the SieveQ1 training data set using fuzzy C-means
clustering. The figure shows the maximum memberships of the input examples to the clusters.
training data, the selection of non-optimal values of the model parameters, the
optimisation techniques etc. For example, the hydrological river flow data is often fitted
with a lognormal probability distribution (Kottegoda, 1980). Consequently, the
computed PIs are asymmetrical and the absolute values of the upper PIs are greater than
those of the lower PIs.
In order to select the most important influencing variables of the model, including
unsupervised learning such as clustering; several approaches have been reported in the
literature. We use the linear correlation analysis in this study. Figure 7.7 shows the
correlation analysis of the computed upper PIs in the training data set and the input data
for different values of the lag time. It can be observed that the upper PIs have the
130 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Table 7.5. Cluster centres and computed prediction intervals for each cluster in the SieveQ1 data
set.
Prediction Interval (m3/s)
Cluster
ID
Cluster centre
REt-5 (mm/hour)
Qt (m3/s)
Qt-1 (m3/s)
Lower
Upper
C1
5.81
656.99
644.19
-106.99
134.84
C2
1.96
260.01
257.53
-52.50
66.28
C3
0.56
119.38
119.75
-18.05
24.57
C4
0.08
59.74
60.38
-6.08
6.7
C5
0.04
23.00
23.05
-1.01
1.42
1.0
0.9
Effective Rainfall
Corr. Coef.
0.8
Discharge
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
-5
-4
-3
-2
-1
Time lags (hours)
0
1
Figure 7.7. Correlation between computed upper prediction interval with input data effective
rainfall, REt and discharge, Qt for different values of time lags. Upper prediction interval has
highest correlation with REt-5 (time lag is 5 hr). Similarly upper prediction interval has highest
correlation with Qt.
highest correlation with REt-5 (lag time is 5 hr) and that they decrease slowly as the lag
time decreases. Similarly, runoff of the present time (Qt) contains much more
information than that of previous values (say up to a 2 hour lag) of the runoff to
estimate upper PIs of the 1 hour ahead runoff (Qt+1), because the upper PIs have the
highest correlation with Qt. Similar results are also obtained for the lower PIs.
7.2.4 Uncertainty estimation
The performance of the UNEEC method is compared to that of the analytical approach
in the case of experiments with the bivariate input variables (see Table 7.6). It is
observed that the UNEEC method shows superior performance for both time leads of
the forecasts with respect to PICP and MPI.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
131
Table 7.6. Results on the test data set for hydrological data set using M5 model trees as primary
and uncertainty model in the UNEEC method.
Analytical or uniform
UNEEC method
Prediction
interval method
Experiment
3
error (m /s)
PIPC (%)
MPI(m3/s)
PIPC (%) MPI (m3/s)
SieveQ1Bivar 6.13
98.00
40.98
99.93
25.61
SieveQ3Bivar 14.18
98.00
86.90
98.00
61.76
96.67a
15.25a
91.33
11.80
95.67
a
43.27
a
89.33
40.58
97.67
a
96.34
a
91.33
81.6
SieveQ1
SieveQ3
SieveQ6
3.61
13.67
22.89
a
Note: – uniform interval method
60
3
MPI (m /s)
50
40
30
20
10
91
93
95
97
99
PICP (%)
Figure 7.8. Comparison of performance using different machine learning techniques for SieveQ1
data set. Black blocks refer to the UNEEC methods, the grey blocks – to the analytical
approach. Rhombus, square, circular and triangle shapes represent linear regression, locally
weighted regression, artificial neural network and model tree respectively.
A comparison of the performance using various data-driven models is shown in
Figure 7.8. We employ multiple linear regressions, LWR, ANN and MT to predict
runoff 1, 3 and 6 hour ahead. These data-driven models are also used as uncertainty
models to estimate the PIs. The results show that the performance of MT is better than
that of the other models. The performance of the linear regression and LWR models are
comparable.
We compare the results with the uniform interval method (UIM) that constructs a
single PI from the empirical distribution of errors on the whole training data and is
applied uniformly to the test data set. The results are presented in Table 7.6. The UIM
method gives a constant width of the uncertainty bounds and is used here as bench mark
to compare the results with UNEEC method. The UNEEC method performs
consistently better than the UIM as PICPs of UNEEC are closer to the desired
confidence level of 95%.
132 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
350
95% prediction limits
Measured
Prediction
300
Discharge (m3/s)
250
200
150
100
50
0
50
100
150
Time (hours)
200
250
300
Figure 7.9. Computed prediction limits for SieveQ1 test data set. M5 model tree is employed to
predict 1 hour ahead runoff. M5 model tree is also used to estimate uncertainty percentiles
(prediction limits).
100
SieveQ1
80
SieveQ3
PICP (%)
SieveQ6
60
ideal
40
20
0
0
20
40
60
80
Confidence level (%)
100
Figure 7.10. The prediction interval coverage probability (PICP) for different values of
confidence level. M5 model tree is employed as the forecasting model and the uncertainty
model in the UNEEC method.
Figure 7.9 shows the computed prediction limits for the 95% confidence level in the
SieveQ1 test data set using the MT as primary (i.e. forecasting of Qt+1) model and the
uncertainty model in the UNEEC method. It can be seen that 96.67% of the observed
data points are enclosed within the prediction limits. This value is very close to the
desired value of 95%.
Figure 7.10 shows the deviation of the PICPs from the desired confidence level
when the MT is used. The PIs are constructed for various confidence levels ranging
from 10% to 99%. It is to be noticed that the PICPs are very close to the desired
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
133
200
180
160
120
100
80
MPI (m3/s)
140
60
40
20
0
1
3
Forecast horizon (hours)
0
6
Figure 7.11. A fan chart showing the mean prediction interval for flow prediction in the Sieve
catchment up to 6 hours ahead. The darkest strip covers 10% probability and the lightest 99%.
confidence levels at values higher than 80%, and in practice the PIs are constructed
around this value. Furthermore, it can be noted that the PIs are too narrow in most of the
cases as the PICPs are below the straight line. Such evidence was also reported by
Chatfield (2000). In these cases the UNEEC method underestimates the uncertainty of
the model outputs.
Figure 7.11 presents a fan chart showing the MPI with different forecast lead times
and different confidence levels. It is evident that the width of the PIs increases with the
increase in the confidence level. Moreover it is also illustrated that the width of PIs
increases as the forecast lead time increases, i.e. the model forecast uncertainty
increases as the lead time increases.
7.2.5 Conclusions
This case study demonstrates the application of the UNEEC method for the
prediction of uncertainty in the forecasts of river flows. We estimate uncertainty in the
rive flow forecasts made by several data-driven techniques, namely artificial neural
networks, model trees, and locally weighted regression. For this study, we select the
Sieve River catchment located on the Appennines Mountains in Tuscany, North-Central
Italy. We predict uncertainty for the forecast of 1, 3, and 6 hours lead time. The results
shows that the UNEEC method gives reasonable estimate of the forecast uncertainty;
and the percentage of observed data falling inside the uncertainty bounds estimated by
the UNEEC method is very close to the desired degree of confidence level used to
derive these bounds. We also show how uncertainty of forecast increases as forecast
lead time increases.
134 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
7.3
Application 3: Brue catchment4
In this case study, we present the application of the UNEEC method to estimate the
uncertainty of the simulated river flows of the Brue catchment in UK. A description of
the Brue catchment is presented in section 5.1. The conceptual rainfall-runoff model
HBV is used to simulate hourly river flows and its description is presented in section
5.2. The calibration of model parameters of the HBV model using adaptive clustering
covering (ACCO) algorithm is described in section 5.3.
7.3.1 Analysis of simulation results
The analysis of the model residuals in the calibration period shows that model residuals
are highly correlated with the observed flows. Most of the high flows have relatively
high residuals whereas the low flows have small residuals. The presence of
heteroscedasticity in the residuals is observed. Figure 7.12 shows the distribution of the
residuals in the calibration and validation periods, and it can be seen that the residuals
are not normally distributed. We have done several statistical tests such as the
Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Lilliefors (Lilliefors, 1967) tests and these tests support this
hypothesis. These tests of normality and homoscedasticity suggest that in order to
provide a reliable estimate of the model uncertainty, transformations of the model
residuals will be required if statistical methods are to be applied.
Figure 7.12. Normal probability plot of the model residuals in the (a) calibration period and (b)
the model errors in the verification period.
4
Based on: Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2008). Data-driven approaches for estimating
uncertainty in rainfall-runoff modelling. Intl. J. River Basin Management, 6(2), pp. 109-122.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
135
7.3.2 Selection of input variables
Figure 7.13. Average mutual information (AMI) and correlation of model residuals with (a)
effective rainfall and (b) discharge.
Table 7.7. Summary of input variables selected for the models/processes.
Variables
HBV model
Clustering
Uncertainty model U
REt-8, REt-9, REt-10, Qt-1, Qt-2,
REt-8, REt-9, REt-10, Qt-1, Qt-2,
Input
Rt , Et
Qt-3
Qt-3
Output
Qt
V, P
PItL , PItU
Not: P is partition matrix that contains the membership values of each data for each cluster and V
is the matrix of the cluster centres.
Several approaches have been reported in the literature (e.g., Guyon and Elisseeff, 2003;
Bowden et al., 2005) to select the model input variables. We follow a similar approach
which is also discussed in section 4.6. The input variables Xc used in the clustering
consist of the previous values of effective rainfall (REt-8, REt-9, REt-10) and runoff (Qt-1,
Qt-2, Qt-3) (see Table 7.7). This structure of the input data used in the clustering is
determined by the analysis of the correlation and average mutual information (AMI)
between the effective rainfall or runoff and the model residuals (see Figure 7.13). One
can notice that the model residuals have the highest correlation and AMI to the effective
rainfall with the 9th time step lag. Whereas the residuals have the highest correlation
and AMI to the discharge at the lag of zero. This is obvious because model residuals are
computed from the observed and simulated discharges.
7.3.3 Clustering
Figure 7.14 shows the clustering of the input examples with the effective rainfall at a
lag time of 9 hours (Figure 7.14a) and a discharge at a one hour lag (Figure 7.14b) in the
abscissa and the model residuals in the ordinate. In this case study, we also set fuzzy
exponential exponent m to 2. One can observe that high flows have a higher value of the
model residuals, which are well identified by the clustering analysis. Furthermore, the
136 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.14. Plot of clustering results with the model residuals versus (a) effective rainfall and (b)
discharge. The label C1 through C5 indicates the cluster ID.
Figure 7.15. Sensitivity of the statistics of uncertainty measures with number of clusters.
low flows are also separated into one cluster, which has a very low value of the model
residual.
An important issue is in determining the number of clusters. In this study, the
number of clusters is determined by estimating the PIs with different numbers of
clusters. The results are presented in Figure 7.15. We use the two statistics PICP and
MPI (see section 6.6) in addition to visualize graphically the hydrograph in order to
compare the results of the uncertainty analysis methods. In principle, these measures
can also be computed individually for each cluster, but this would require training a
classifier that would be able to attribute the new input vectors to one of the clusters.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
137
Table 7.8. Cluster centres (only 2 variables are reported in this table) and computed prediction
intervals for each cluster.
Cluster
ID
Cluster centres
Prediction intervals
REt-9 (mm/hour)
Qt-1 (m3/s)
Lower
Upper
C1
0.059
2.727
-0.525
0.812
C2
0.026
0.518
-0.706
0.418
C3
0.433
12.712
-3.991
3.578
C4
1.451
26.311
-3.827
5.777
C5
0.14
5.849
-1.667
1.620
Figure 7.16. Fuzzy clustering of the input data for the calibration period (1994/06/24 05:00 1995/06/24 04:00).
It is observed that the number of clusters corresponding to PICP close to 90%
confidence level is 4. However, MPI in this case is higher than that obtained with 5
clusters. So we choose to use 5 clusters. This value of 5 is also consistent with previous
case study (section 7.2), which has shown that this value is reasonable to represent
different situations related to the runoff generation process. The oscillation of PICP may
be due to the following. The input data might be noisy. Empirical distributions
estimated from the limited data may not be representative. The uncertainty model used
in the prediction of the PIs may not be accurate.
Table 7.8 shows the computed PIs for each of the clusters with a 90% degree
confidence level. Investigating the clusters with their centres and PIs reveals that the
clusters with high values of rainfall and runoff have wider PIs, while the clusters with
138 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
low values of rainfall and runoff have narrower PIs. The unsymmetrical values of the
lower and upper PIs are obvious due to the fact that the HBV hydrological model
calibration result was also biased. It is observed that most of the time the hydrological
model is underestimating the river flows in the calibration period.
The fuzzy clustering of the input data for the calibration period is shown in Figure
7.16. The input data (in this figure the discharge data) is attributed to one of those
clusters (Clusters C1 through C5) to which the data has the highest degree of
membership. Cluster C2 contains input examples with very low runoff, whereas Cluster
C4 is associated with very high values of runoff. Fuzzy C-means clustering is able to
identify clusters corresponding to various mechanisms of the runoff generation process
such as high flow, low flow, medium flow etc.
7.3.4 Uncertainty results and discussions
Figure 7.17 shows the estimated 90% PIs for the validation data using both
regression and instance based learning methods as the uncertainty model. M5 model
trees (Quinlan, 1992) is used as a regression model. In instance-based learning, we use a
fuzzy committee approach and the weight is computed by setting m = 1 i.e., using
inverse the square Euclidean distance (equation (6.7)).
It is found that when the instance-based method is used, 89.6% of the observed data
points are enclosed within the computed PIs. In the case of the regression method a
slightly higher share (90.8%) of the observed data is inside the PIs. 7.6% (6.8% with the
regression method) of the validation data points fall below the lower PI, whereas only
2.8% (2.4% with the regression method) of the data points fall above the upper PI. This
difference is consistent with the fact that the simulation model M is biased and
overestimates the flow in the validation data. In order to check if the percentages of the
bracketed data points are more or less similar for any range of river flows, we compare
the histogram of the observed river flows, which are outside the bounds, with the
observed ones. The result, which is not presented here, reveals that the distribution of
the observed flows that are outside the uncertainty bounds is relatively consistent with
the observed ones.
The average values of the PIs are 1.44 m3/s and 1.50 m3/s using the instance based
and the regression methods respectively. Also, it can be noticed from Figure 7.17 that
the PIs computed with the regression method are slightly wider than those obtained with
the instance based method. These values are reasonable if compared with the order of
magnitude of the model error in the test data (root mean squared error is 0.97 m3/s).
The upper part of Figure 7.17 depicts the width of the prediction bound and the
fuzzy clustering of the data. Since in fuzzy clustering each data point belongs to all
clusters (in this case clusters C1 through C5), the clusters to which each data point has
the highest fuzzy membership values are identified and plotted. One can notice in the
figure that the high flows have the highest fuzzy membership to the Cluster C5 and also
have a large uncertainty, whereas the low flows have the highest fuzzy membership to
the Cluster C2. The width of the prediction bound in this group is relatively small.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
139
Figure 7.17. Prediction intervals in the validation data set. (a) Period from 1995/06/24 05:00 to
1996/05/31/ 13:00. Model residuals are shown in the bottom of the figure. The cluster ID and
width of the PIs are also shown in the top axis of the figure. (b) Enlarge view for period from
1995/12/28 16:00 to 1996/01/18 08:00.
7.3.5 Comparison of uncertainty results
In this section the uncertainty results are compared with the widely used MC method
GLUE (Beven and Binley, 1992) , and the meta-Gaussian method (Montanari and
Brath, 2004). Note that the comparison with GLUE is performed purely for illustration
since it analyses the parametric uncertainty. As far as the meta-Gaussian method is
concerned, one thing is common to the UNEEC method - the uncertainty is based on the
analysis of the optimal (calibrated) model residuals. The experiment for the GLUE
method is setup as follows:
1. Prior feasible ranges of parameter values are set to be the same as those used in
the automatic calibration of the HBV model (see Table 5.2);
2. The likelihood measure is based on the coefficient of the model efficiency, CoE
criterion used also by Beven and Freer (2001);
140 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.18. A comparison of 90% prediction bounds estimated with the UNEEC, GLUE, and
meta-Gaussian approach in the validation period. (a) 1995/06/24 05:00 to 1996/05/31/ 13:00,
(b) enlarge view of the period of about 12 days including the highest peak flow at 1995/12/22
and (c) the relatively small event after about one week later.
3. The rejection threshold values is set to 0.7; and
4. The number of behavioral parameter sets is set to 3000.
The comparison results are reported in Figure 7.18. One may notice the differences
between the prediction bounds estimated with the UNEEC and GLUE method;
nevertheless these two techniques are different in nature. The key difference is that
GLUE as performed here accounts only for the parameter uncertainty whereas the
UNEEC method treats all other sources of uncertainty in an aggregated form. Note that
the width of the prediction bound obtained by the GLUE method varies with the
rejection threshold and the likelihood measure to a great extent. For example, the lower
rejection threshold produces relatively wider uncertainty bounds. The selection of
appropriate rejection threshold is very crucial to the GLUE method, and it is one of the
criticisms often reported in the literature.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
141
Figure 7.19. A comparison of the statistics of uncertainty estimated with the UNEEC, GLUE, and
meta-Gaussian methods in the validation period. The statistics of the uncertainty are measured
with PICP and MPI.
It is noticed that only 62% of the observed discharge in the validation data fall inside
the 90% prediction bounds estimated by the GLUE method. As expected, the width of
the prediction bounds is smaller than that obtained with the UNEEC method. The
average value of the width of the prediction bound (i.e. MPI) is 1.28 m3/s. It appears
that about an equal share of the observed data which are outside the prediction bounds
are below (18.9%) and above (19.1%) the prediction bounds.
Figure 7.18 shows the 90% prediction bounds obtained with the meta-Gaussian
approach in the validation data set. It is worthwhile repeating that the meta-Gaussian
approach estimates the uncertainty based on the analysis of the optimal (calibrated)
model residuals (see section 2.8.5). As we observe above that the model residuals are
neither Gaussian nor homoscedastic, we transform the model residuals according to the
outline presented by Montanari and Brath (2004) to stabilize the variance of the model
residuals. It is observed that 84.8% of the observed discharge in the validation data falls
inside the estimated 90% prediction bounds. Further analysis of the results reveals that
9% of the observed data are below the lower prediction bound whereas 6.2% of the data
are above the upper prediction bound. The average width of the prediction bounds is
1.31 m3/s.
Figure 7.19 depicts the comparison statistics of the uncertainty estimation by the
different methods considered. One can see that in the GLUE method most of observed
data are outside the estimated prediction bounds with narrow uncertainty bounds
compared to those obtained with the other methods. The 90% prediction bounds
estimated with the UNEEC method encloses almost 90% of the observed data while a
slightly smaller number of observed data are enclosed with the meta-Gaussian approach.
7.3.6 Conclusions
This case study presents the application of the UNEEC method for the prediction of
uncertainty of the simulated river flows referring to the case study of the Brue
catchment, UK. We use simplified version of the HBV conceptual model for the
142 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
application of the method. Analysis of simulation results shows that the model residuals
are neither normally distributed nor homoscedastic. Fuzzy clustering technique has been
used to identify the natural groups of the input data. As a machine learning techniques
model trees have been used to predict the uncertainty bounds of the model output
simulated by the HBV model. Instance based learning method is also applied to predict
the uncertainty bounds. The uncertainty results obtained from both methods are
comparable.
The results show that the estimated uncertainty bounds are consistent with the order
of magnitude of the model errors in the validation period. We also compare the
uncertainty bounds with those estimated by the GLUE and the meta-Gaussian methods.
Note that the width of the prediction bounds obtained by the GLUE method varies with
the rejection threshold and the likelihood measure to a great extent. In the metaGaussian method, the model residuals should be normally distributed and
homoscedastic to get reliable results. The comparison results shows that the UNEEC
method gives reasonable estimate of the uncertainty of the model prediction; and the
percentage of observed data falling inside the uncertainty bounds estimated by the
UNEEC method is very close to the desired degree of confidence level used to derive
these bounds. This application demonstrates that the UNEEC method can be used to
predict the uncertainty of the model output.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
7.4
143
Application 4: Bagmati catchment5
In this application, we demonstrate the application of the UNEEC method to a rainfallrunoff model of the Bagmati catchment in Nepal. The HBV model is also used as a
rainfall-runoff model. Compared to the previous case studies, the Bagmati catchment
has the following characteristics: the size of the catchment is bigger, the length of the
data is larger, the resolution of the data is daily, and the quality of the data is
comparatively poorer. In this study we also extend the methodology to estimate the
probability distribution function of the model output.
7.4.1 Description of case study
Bagmati catchment lies in the central mountainous region of Nepal. The catchment
encompasses nearly 3700 km2 within Nepal and reaches the Ganges River in India. The
catchment area draining to the gauging station at Pandheradobhan is about 2900 km2
(see Figure 7.20) and it covers the Kathmandu valley, including the source of the
Bagmati River at Shivapuri and the surrounding Mahabharat mountain ranges. The
catchment covers eight districts of Nepal and is a perennial water body of Kathmandu.
The length of the main channel is about 195 km within Nepal and 134 km above the
gauging station.
Time series data for rainfall at three stations (Kathmandu, Hariharpurgadhi, and
Daman) within the basin with a daily resolution for eight years (1988 to 1995) were
collected. The mean areal rainfall is calculated using Thiessen polygons. Although this
method is not recommended for mountainous regions, the mean rainfall is consistent
with the long-term average annual rainfall computed with the isohyetal method (Chalise
et al., 2003). The long-term mean annual rainfall of the catchment is about 1,500 mm
with 90% of the rainfall occurring during the four months of the monsoon season (June
to September). Daily flows are recorded from only one station at Pandheradobhan.
Long-term mean annual discharge of the river at the station is 151 m3/s but the annual
discharge varies from 96.8 m3/s in 1977 to 252.3 m3/s in 1987 (DHM, 1998). The daily
potential evapotranspiration is computed using the modified Penman method
recommended by the FAO (Allen et al., 1998).
Two thousand daily records from 1988/01/01 to 1993/06/22 are selected for
calibration of the process model (in this study, the HBV hydrological model as
described in section 5.2) and data from 1993/06/23 to 1995/12/31 are used for the
validation (verification) of the process model. The first two months of the calibration
data are considered as a warming-up period and are hence excluded from the study. This
separation of the 8 years of data into calibration and validation data is done on the basis
5
Based on: Solomatine, D. and Shrestha, D.L. (2009). A novel method to estimate total model
uncertainty using machine learning techniques. Water Resources Research, 45, pp. W00B11.
144 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.20. Location map of Bagmati catchment considered in this study. Triangles denote the
rainfall stations and circles denote the discharge gauging stations.
Table 7.9. Statistical properties of the runoff data sets
Statistical properties
Period (yyyy/mm/dd)
Number of data
Average (m3/s)
Minimum (m3/s)
Maximum (m3/s)
Standard deviation (m3/s)
Available data
1988/01/01 –
1995/12/31
2922
152.73
5.1
5030.0
273.31
Calibration set
1988/03/01 –
1993/06/22
1940
140.15
5.1
3040
226.42
Verification set
1993/06/23 1995/12/31
922
179.17
6.7
5030
350.83
of previous studies (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2005; Shrestha et al., 2006). These data
sets are used with all the uncertainty analysis methods considered in this study. The
some statistical properties of runoff data sets are presented in Table 7.9.
7.4.2 Calibration of model parameters
The HBV model is calibrated automatically using the global optimisation routine –
adaptive cluster covering algorithm, ACCO (Solomatine et al., 1999) and followed by
manual adjustments of the model parameters as done in the previous case study (see
section 5.3). The HBV model parameters ranges used in the calibration procedure and
their calibrated values are given in Table 7.10.
The Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (CoE) value of 0.83 was obtained for the calibration
period; this value corresponds to a root mean squared error (RMSE) value of 92.31
m3/s. The model was subsequently validated by simulating the flows for the
independent validation data set. The CoE was 0.87 for this period with a root mean
squared error value of 127.6 m3/s. Note that the standard deviation of the observed
discharge in the validation period is 54% higher than that in the calibration period, and
this apparently affects the increased performance in the validation period with respect to
the CoE. The simulated and observed hydrographs, along with rainfall and simulation
error, are shown in Figure 7.21.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
145
Table 7.10. Ranges and calibrated values of the HBV model parameters. The uniform ranges of
parameters are used for calibration of the HBV model using the ACCO algorithm and for
analysis of the parameter uncertainty of the HBV model by the GLUE method.
Parameter
Description and unit
Ranges
Calibrated
value
FC
Maximum soil moisture content (mm)
50-550
450
LP
Ration for potential evapotranspiration (-)
0.3-1
0.90
ALFA
Response box parameter (-)
0-4
0.1339
BETA
Exponential parameter in soil routine (-)
1-6
1.0604
K
Recession coefficient for upper tank (/day)
0.05-0.5
0.3
K4
Recession coefficient for lower tank (/day)
0.01-0.3
0.04664
PERC
Maximum flow from upper to lower tank (mm/day)
0-8
7.5
CFLUX
Maximum value of capillary flow (mm/day)
0-1
0.0004
MAXBAS
Transfer function parameter (day)
1-3
2.02
Figure 7.21. Simulated discharge for the Bagmati catchment for a validation period. The top and
bottom plots show the precipitation and model errors respectively during the same period.
146 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
7.4.3 Analysis of model residuals
Figure 7.22. Normal probability plot of (a) model residuals in the calibration period and (b) model
errors in the validation (or verification) period.
The analysis of the model residuals in the calibration period shows that the model
residuals are highly correlated with the observed flows. Most of the high flows have
relatively high residuals whereas the low flows have small residuals. The presence of
heteroscedasticity in the residuals is observed as well. These results are consistent with
those obtained in the Brue case study (section 7.3). Figure 7.22 shows the distribution of
the residuals in the calibration and in the validation periods, and it can be seen that the
residuals are not normally distributed. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Lilliefors
(Lilliefors, 1967) tests support this hypothesis.
7.4.4 Clustering
The clustering is performed using Fuzzy C-means algorithm based on previous
experience (Shrestha and Solomatine, 2006a, 2008). Selection of the input variables and
the optimal number of clusters are discussed in this section.
Selection of input variables
Several approaches have been reported in the literature (Guyon and Elisseeff, 2003,
Bowden et al., 2005) to select the model input variables; we follow the approach used in
the previous case study (section 7.3). The input variables Xc used in clustering are
constructed from the rainfall, the potential evapotranspiration, and the observed
discharge. Several structures of the input data including the lagged variables are
considered following the analysis of the correlation and the AMI between the rainfall,
runoff and evapotranspiration with the model residuals. It appears that the inclusion of
the potential evapotranspiration does not improve the results obtained for the crossvalidation data set, and it can be said that its inclusion would introduce “confusion” into
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
147
the model. For example, during the low flow season (i.e. the dry season of April and
May) there is a very high potential evapotranspiration due to the hot weather in this
period. The calibration of the hydrological model shows that the model captures the low
flow reasonably well. However, this hydrological condition (low flow, negligible or
zero rainfall, and very high potential evapotranspiration) is not identified as a low flow
season in the clustering. So it was decided not to include the potential
evapotranspiration as a separate variable, but rather to use the effective rainfall (see
equation (5.10)).
After some trials with the different input combinations the following variables are
selected for clustering: REt and Qt (see Table 7.11). The principle of parsimony is
followed by avoiding the use of a large number of inputs. In addition to this, the
absolute values of the model residuals are used, which explicitly force the input data
having similar values of model residuals to be in one group. Since the rainfall and
discharge have different units with different orders of magnitude, and their values do
not represent the same quantities, all input variables are normalized to the interval from
zero to one. This scheme can prevent the model from being dominated by variables with
large values, and is commonly used in data-driven modelling.
Table 7.11 Summary of input variables selected for the models/processes.
Variables
Input
HBV model
Rt , Et
Clustering
REt, Qt, εt
Uncertainty model
REt, REt-1, Qt, Qt-1
Output
Qt
V,P
etp
Note: P is the partition matrix that contains the membership values of data for each cluster and V
is the matrix of the cluster centres.
Selection of number of clusters
Figure 7.23. Finding the optimal number of clusters using partition index SC (top figure),
separation index S (middle figure), and Xie-Beni index XB (bottom figure).
148 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.24. Sensitivity of the statistics of uncertainty measures with the number of clusters for
the calibration period.
As previously mentioned, an important issue in clustering is to identify the optimal
number of clusters. Three validation indices are used to select the optimal number of
clusters: partition index (SC), separation index (S), and Xie-Beni index (XB) (Xie and
Beni, 1991; Bensaid et al., 1996). The results are shown in Figure 7.23. The SC and S
indices hardly decrease when the number of clusters c equals 6. However, the XB index
reaches this local minimum at c = 5. It must be mentioned again, that the use of a single
validation index is not reliable, so three indices are used, and the optimum can only be
determined through a comparison of all the results. The partitions with fewer clusters
are preferred when the differences between the values of a validation index are minor.
So the optimal number of clusters is chosen to be 5, which is also confirmed by
estimating prediction bounds for the calibration data (see Figure 7.24).
Figure 7.24 depicts the sensitivity of uncertainty measures to the number of clusters
c. It is observed that MPI decreases with the increase of c. However, in the case of PICP
there is no obvious pattern. The MPI fluctuates around the value 97.5% after c=5. At
c=5, MPI and deviation of PICP from the desired confidence level (i.e., 90%) is smaller
as compared to those with c=6. This value is also consistent with previous case studies,
which have shown that this value is reasonable to represent different situations related
to the runoff generation process.
Analysis of clusters
Figure 7.25 shows fuzzy clustering of input examples. The input variables, effective
rainfall REt (Figure 7.25a) and discharge Qt (Figure 7.25b), are on the abscissa and the
model residuals are on the ordinate. Note that each input data belongs to all 5 clusters
with different degrees of fuzziness (see Figure 7.26). However, in the plot the cluster
which has the maximum membership function is shown. It is observed that there is a
well defined pattern of the model residuals with the input variables such as defined by
REt and Qt. One can see that high flows and high (effective) rainfall generally have
higher values of model residuals which are well identified (Cluster C3) by the clustering
process. On the other hand, the conditions characterized by low flows are also separated
into one cluster (Cluster C1) which has very low values of the model residuals. These
results are also consistent with the results of the previous case studies.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
149
Figure 7.25. Fuzzy clustering of the input data in the calibration period (from 1988/01/01 to
1993/06/23) showing correlation of (a) effective rainfall and (b) discharge with model
residuals. The labels C1 through C5 indicate the cluster ID.
Figure 7.26. Membership functions of fuzzy clustering to the data. The top most plot shows the
observed hydrograph. Each data point belongs to all Clusters C1, C2, C3, C4, and C5 with
different membership function values.
Figure 7.27 presents the separation of the hydrograph with respect to the different
clusters. One may notice that the majority of the flows have the highest membership in
Cluster C1, which can be interpreted as the base flow. The peaks and most of the high
flows are attributed to Cluster C3. Some high flows, especially on the recession of the
hydrograph, are attributed to Cluster C5, because these examples have less or no rainfall
150 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.27. Fuzzy clustering of the input data in the calibration period (from 1988/01/01 to
1993/06/23). The bottom plot shows the enlarged view of the monsoon event of 1990.
and cannot be grouped into C3, which has high values of both flow and rainfall. It can
be said that the Fuzzy C-means clustering is able to identify the clusters corresponding
to the various mechanisms of the runoff generation process, such as peak flow with high
rainfall, high flow with no or less rainfall (recession of the hydrograph) and base flow,
etc.
7.4.5 Selection of input variables for uncertainty model
In order to select the most important influencing variables for the uncertainty model U,
an approach similar to the one used for clustering is followed. Correlation analysis and
AMI analysis between input variables REt and Qt (including lags) and the quantiles of
the model error are conducted Figure 7.28a shows the correlation coefficient and AMI
of REt and its lagged variables up to 7 days, i.e., REt-1, REt-2,…, REt-7 with the 5% and
95% quantiles. It is observed that the variables REt and REt-1 are strongly correlated
with both quantiles; so these two variables are included in the input vector xu.
The correlation and AMI analyses between Qt and the quantiles of the model error
are presented in Figure 7.28b. It is also observed that Qt and Qt-1 are strongly correlated
with the quantiles. Although the lag 2 variable Qt-2 also has a high correlation, only Qt
and Qt-1 are included in the input vector. The reason is that the flow Qt is highly autocorrelated and the inclusion of too many lagged variables of Qt may lead to the
redundancy of the model structure. Note that during the model application, Qt is not
available and we use its approximation made by model M. Although the simulated Qt
may bring additional uncertainty to the model U, our experiments have shown that this
approach results in the more accurate model U (in terms of PICP and MPI).
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
151
Figure 7.28. Average mutual information (AMI) and correlation coefficient (Corr. Coef.) of 5%
and 95% quantiles of the model errors with (a) effective rainfall and (b) discharge. The thin
dark line shows the 5% quantile, the thick grey line shows the 95% quantile.
Selection and validation of uncertainty model
M5 model tree (MT) is used as an uncertainty prediction model U. There are certain
advantages of using MT compared to other machine learning methods; it is simple,
easy, and fast to train. The results are interpretable, understandable, and reproducible.
Solomatine and Dulal (2003) have shown that MT can be used as an alternative to ANN
in rainfall-runoff modelling. There is only one parameter in MT, the pruning factor (or,
alternatively, the minimum number of data allowed in each linear model component),
which controls the complexity of the model. The following shows the structure of the
input data for the model U to predict 5% and 95% quantiles (see also Table 7.11):
e5 = U 5 ( REt , REt −1 , Qt , Qt -1; pf )
(7.13)
e95 = U 95 ( REt , REt −1 , Qt , Qt -1 ; pf )
where e5 and e95 are the 5% and 95% quantiles of the model error respectively, and pf is
the pruning factor. The following is the example of a generated model tree by U5for e5
with pf = 4:
152 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
There are five linear models (namely LM1, LM2, LM3, LM4, and LM5) generated
for various intervals of Qt, REt, and Qt-1. Note that numbers inside the parenthesis are
the numbers of the data vectors in the sub-sets. Similar structures of the linear models
are obtained for e95. Table 7.12 shows the mean and standard deviation statistics of the
generated quantiles of the model error and performance of U5 and U95 in the training,
cross-validation and calibration data sets.
The mean and the standard deviation of the quantiles on the training and crossvalidation data sets are consistent with the high variability in the original data. The
performances of the uncertainty models U as measured by RMSE and CoE for 5% and
95% quantiles are quite reasonable for both the training and cross-validation data sets,
in spite of the high variability of the quantiles. The RMSE and CoE values of the
models U on the calibration data set are consistent with those for the training and crossvalidation sets, and this ensures the predictability of the models U. Figure 7.29 depicts
the scatter plot for the generated and predicted quantiles in the cross-validation data. It
is observed that both models are quite good for approximating the relationship between
the input space variables and the quantiles of the model error.
Table 7.12. Mean and standard deviation statistics of the 5% and 95% quantiles of the model
error, and the performance of uncertainty prediction models U.
Data set
Mean
Std. dev.
RMSE
CoE
Training
73.60 (86.29)
77.54 (73.60)
28.44 (27.25)
0.87 (0.86)
Cross-validation
67.36 (79.58)
71.75 (67.70)
26.69 (27.41)
0.86 (0.84)
Calibration
71.55 (84.07)
75.72 (71.76)
27.74 (26.70)
0.87(0.86)
Note: Performances are RMSE and CoE. The training and cross-validation data constitutes 67%
and 33%, respectively, of the calibration data (data used to calibrate process model). Values in
parentheses correspond to statistics of 95% quantiles of the model error and the performance
of uncertainty prediction models U95. Std. dev., RMSE, and CoE are standard deviation of
model errors, root mean squared error, the Nash-Sutcliffe between predicted and target values
of the quantiles, respectively.
Figure 7.29. Scatter plot of the predicted and the target quantiles of the model errors for (a) 5%
and (b) 95% quantiles in cross-validation data (part of the calibration data).
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
153
Analysis of model uncertainty
Figure 7.30. Cumulative distribution of the model residuals for each cluster in the calibration
period. The last figure (second row and third column in the figure panel) shows the
cumulative distribution of the model residuals for the calibration data.
Table 7.13. Cluster centres and computed quantiles of the model error for each cluster.
Cluster
Cluster centre
Quantiles
REt (mm/day)
Qt (m3/s)
5%
95%
C1
0.39
33.99
-43.27
32.28
C2
2.89
176.88
-91.44
107.71
C3
39.61
792.44
-530.47
442.49
C4
10.21
469.22
-264.14
288.29
C5
27.02
385.45
-184.77
189.90
Note: Cluster C1 is identified by low values of flows and rainfall. Cluster C3 is identified by high
flows and high rainfalls.
Figure 7.30 shows the empirical cumulative distribution of the model residuals for
each cluster. In this plot sets S1, S2, S3, S4 and S5 belong to the sets of the input data
which has the highest membership grade to the Cluster C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5,
respectively. Obviously the distributions are quite different among them.
154 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.31 A comparison of 90% prediction bounds (darker shaded region) estimated with (a and
b) the UNEEC method, (c and d) the GLUE method, (e and f) the meta-Gaussian method and
(g and h) the quantile regression method in the validation period. The figures on the left
shows the monsoon period of 1993 and the figures on the right show the monsoon of 1995.
The dots show the observed discharge, the line shows the simulated discharge.
5% and 95% quantiles of the model residuals are computed for each of the clusters.
The results are presented in Table 7.13. Investigating the clusters with their centres and
quantiles reveals that the clusters with high values of rainfall and runoff have large
values of the quantiles, while the clusters with low values of rainfall and runoff have
small values of the quantiles. The asymmetrical values of these quantiles are obvious
due to the fact that the HBV hydrological model calibration result is biased. It is
observed that most of the time the hydrological model underestimates the river flows in
the calibration period.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
155
Figure 7.31 shows the observed discharge, the 90% hydrograph prediction
uncertainty and comparison to the other three methods. The details of the comparison
follow later. Figure 7.31a highlights the flood event that occurred during the monsoon
of 1993. Interestingly enough the HBV model captures the highest peak flow very well
and consequently the peak flow is bracketed by the predicted PIs. Figure 7.31b focuses
on another monsoon event during 1995. This event was underestimated by the HBV
model. One can see that the estimated uncertainty bound fails to enclose the highest
peak discharge of the 1995 monsoon.
It is observed that 88.07% of the observed data points are enclosed within the
computed PIs. 6.4% of the validation data points fall below the lower PI, whereas
5.53% data points fall above the upper PI. The average width of the uncertainty bounds
i.e. MPI is 165 m3/s. This value is reasonable if compared with the order of magnitude
of the model error in the validation data. The further analysis reveals that the
distribution of the observed discharge below the lower PI is relatively consistent with
the observed discharge. As far as the upper PI is concerned, less data are outside in the
low flow (range of 0-250 m3/s). This means that the upper PIs are unnecessarily
overestimated. However, the width of the upper PI in the intermediate flows (range of
250-750 m3/s) is considerably narrower.
7.4.6 Comparison of uncertainty results
In this section the results are compared with the widely-used Monte Carlo method
GLUE, the meta-Gaussian, and the quantile regression (Koenker and Bassett, 1978)
method. Note that the comparison with GLUE is performed purely for illustration since
it analyses the parametric uncertainty, and other methods – the uncertainty based on the
analysis of the optimal (calibrated) model residuals.
The experiment for the GLUE method (Beven and Binley, 1992) is set up similar to
the Brue case study except, the number of behavioural parameter sets is increased to
25,000. The comparison results are reported in Figure 7.31c, d. One may notice the
differences between the prediction bounds estimated by the UNEEC and GLUE method,
but, again, these two techniques are different in nature, which was discussed in the
previous case study (section 7.3).
It can be noticed that only 63.9% of the observed discharge values in the validation
data fall inside the 90% prediction bounds estimated by the GLUE method. As
expected, the width of the prediction bounds is smaller than those obtained with the
other methods. The average value of the prediction bound width is 120.35 m3/s (see
Figure 7.32). The further detailed analysis reveals that only 6.51% of the observed
discharges are below lower PIs. The majority of the observed flows (29.61%) fall above
the upper PIs.
The 90% prediction bounds estimated with the meta-Gaussian approach are shown
in Figure 7.31e, f. Interestingly, it is found that 90% (more accurately, 90.02%) of the
observed discharge values in validation data fall inside the estimated 90% prediction
bounds (see also Figure 7.32). Further analysis of the results reveals that 3.7% of the
156 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Figure 7.32. A Comparison of the statistics of uncertainty estimated with the UNEEC, metaGaussian, GLUE, and quantile regression methods in the validation period.
observed data are below the lower PI whereas 6.3% of data are above the upper PI.
However, one can see that the bounds width is consistently larger and the average width
of the prediction bounds is 225.79 m3/s, which is about 35% larger than that estimated
by the UNEEC method.
Quantile regression method was used to compute the 5% and 95% error quantiles.
The input variables x (see equation (2.26)) used in this method are the same as those
used in the UNEEC method. We have also made several experiments with other input
variables combination, but the results are not so good. The best results are reported in
Figure 7.31g, h. It is observed that 86.12% of the observed discharge values in
validation data fall inside the estimated 90% prediction bounds (see Figure 7.32).
Further analysis of the results reveals that 4.01% of the observed data are below the
lower PI, whereas 9.87% of data are above the upper PI. The average width of the
prediction bounds is 216.86 m3/s.
7.4.7 Estimation of probability distribution of model errors
In the previous sections, only 90% prediction intervals, i.e., 5% and 95% quantiles are
estimated. In this section the extension of the method to derive a more accurate estimate
of the pdf is demonstrated. Several quantiles (such as 2.5, 5, 10:10:90, 95, 97.5%) are
computed for the calibration data after clustering of the input space. Then regression
models are trained for each quantile independently:
e p = U p ( REt , REt −1 , Qt , Qt -1 ; pf )
(7.14)
where p = 2.5, 5, 10:10:90, 95, 97.5 %. In this experiment, a total of 13 regression
models are trained. Once the models U p are trained on the training data, they are used
to predict the quantiles for the new input data (e.g., for the validation data set). Note that
since MTs are used as regression models, it takes only a couple of seconds to train a
single model, so the computational cost to estimate the full distribution is not a major
concern. However, this could be an issue for computationally extensive algorithms,
such as support vector machine or ANNs with long records of input data.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
157
The cumulative probability distribution (cdf) for the peak discharge of the flood
dated 21 July 1993 (the highest peak event of the 1993 monsoon shown in Figure 7.31)
is shown in Figure 7.33a. The cdf computed from the GLUE, meta-Gaussian, and
quantile regression methods are also presented for comparison. One can notice that the
cdf computed from the UNEEC method is relatively steep. The GLUE and quantile
regression methods produce a comparatively flat cdf. For this particular flood event this
means that the uncertainties estimated by the GLUE and quantile regression methods
are very high and the uncertainty estimated by the UNEEC method is lower. The metaGaussian method gives intermediate results. Additional analysis of the cdf for the flood
event of 14 August 1995 supports the finding that the uncertainty estimated with the
UNEEC method is consistently lower for the flood events (Figure 7.33b).
Figure 7.33. A Comparison of estimation of cumulative probability distribution for peak
discharges of the monsoon period of (a) 1993 and (b) 1995.
Figure 7.34. A Comparison of the statistics of uncertainty measures. (a) Prediction interval
coverage probability (PICP). In an ideal case, the plot between PICP and confidence level
follows the thick grey line. (b) Mean prediction interval (MPI) for different values of the
confidence level.
158 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Further analysis is performed in order to compute the percentage of the observed
discharge data falling within the estimated uncertainty bounds (i.e. PICP) and the
average width of the uncertainty bounds (i.e. MPI) for various specified confidence
levels (ranging from 20% to 95%) used to produce these uncertainty bounds. The results
are presented in Figure 7.34. As far as the PICP is concerned, the ideal would be to
follow the thick grey line (Figure 7.34a). Points below this line indicate that less data
are bracketed by the uncertainty bounds. On the other hand, if more data are enclosed in
the uncertainty bounds, the PICP line would be above the ideal line. It can be seen that
the PICPs computed with the meta-Gaussian and QR methods are very close to the
desired confidence levels. In the UNEEC method more data are enclosed at lower
values of the confidence levels. The GLUE method produces consistently lower values
of PICPs for all confidence levels. The results with the GLUE method are consistent
with the results reported in the literature, namely that the percentages of the observed
discharge falling within the uncertainty bounds estimated by the GLUE is normally
much lower than the specified confidence levels (see, e. g., Montanari, 2005; Xiong and
O’Connor, 2008). The low values of PICP of the GLUE uncertainty bounds can be
attributed to many factors which are discussed in section 5.6.2.
As far as the MPI is concerned, the GLUE method generates relatively narrower
uncertainty bounds (Figure 7.34b). The MPI values estimated by UNEEC and metaGaussian methods are comparable at the lower values of the confidence levels.
However, uncertainty bounds estimated by the meta-Gaussian method increase faster as
compared to those obtained with the UNEEC method after 60% confidence levels. The
MPI estimated with the QR method is similar to that obtained with the meta-Gaussian
method.
7.4.8 Conclusions
This case study presents the application of the UNEEC method for the prediction of
uncertainty of the simulated river flows referring to the case study of the Bagmati
catchment in Nepal. In this case study, we also observe that the model residuals are
neither normally distributed nor homoscedastic. Compared to the case study of the Brue
catchment, the uncertainty of the model prediction is higher; this is obvious due to the
following reasons: (i) the size of catchment of this case study is larger and thus basin
average rainfall, temperature data may not be representative; (ii) the quality of data is
poorer; and (iii) the resolution of data is higher.
The results show that the estimated uncertainty bounds are consistent with the order
of magnitude of the model errors in validation period. We also compare the uncertainty
bounds with those estimated by GLUE and meta-Gaussian and quantile regression
methods. The comparison results shows that the UNEEC method gives reasonable
estimate of the uncertainty in the model prediction; and the percentage of observed data
falling inside the uncertainty bounds estimated by the UNEEC method is very close to
the desired degree of confidence level used to derive these bounds. It has been also
demonstrated the extension of the UNEEC method to approximate the probability
distribution function of the model output.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
7.5
159
Multiobjective calibration and uncertainty
In sections 7.1-7.4, uncertainty analysis of the optimal model is carried out. The model
is calibrated using the single objective function value. This section presents some results
with multiobjective calibration and uncertainty.
Practical experience with the calibration of the hydrological model suggests that a
single objective function value is often inadequate to measure properly the simulation of
all the important characteristics of the system that are reflected in the observations.
Gupta et al. (1998) pointed out that there may not exist an objective “statistically
correct” choice for the objective function, and therefore no statistically correct “optimal
choice for the model parameters. Furthermore, recent advances in computational power
have led to more complex hydrological models, often predicting multiple hydrological
fluxes simultaneously. These issues have led to an increasing interest in the multi objective calibration of hydrological model parameters (Gupta et al., 1998; Yapo et al.,
1998; Madsen, 2000; Khu and Madsen, 2005).
Multiobjective calibration problem can be stated as follows:
min{ f1 (θ ),..., f m (θ )}
(7.15)
where m is the number of objective functions, fi(θ), i = 1, ..., m are the individual
objective functions, and θ is the set of model parameters to be calibrated. Due to tradeoffs between the different objectives, the solution to equation (7.15) will no longer, in
general, be a single unique parameter set. Instead, there exist several solutions that
constitute a so-called Pareto optimal set or non-dominated solutions. Any solution θ*
belongs to the Pareto set when there is no feasible solution θ that will improve some
objective values without degrading performance in at least one other objective.
Mathematically, the solution θ* is Pareto-optimal (i) if and only if fi(θ*) ≤ fi(θ) for all k
= 1, ..., m and (ii) fj(θ*) < fj(θ) for some j = 1, ..., m. According to these two statements
the Pareto-optimal solution θ* has at least one smaller objective value compared to any
other feasible solution θ in the decision space, while performing as well or worse than
θ in all remaining objectives.
The multiobjective optimisation algorithm used in this study is the non-dominated
sorting genetic algorithm (NSGA-II) developed by Deb et al. (2002). NSGA-II is
capable of handling a large number of objective functions and provides an approximate
representation of the Pareto set with a single optimisation run. The NSGA-II algorithm
is outlined briefly as follows:
1. Generate an initial population of size p randomly in the domain of the feasible
range;
2. Evaluate the population and sort the population based on non-domination using
a bookkeeping procedure to reduce the order of the computation;
3. Classify the population into several Pareto fronts based on the non-domination
level. Individuals belonging to the first Pareto front are assigned with rank 1,
160 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
individuals belonging to the second Pareto front (second Pareto front is the
Pareto front after removing the individuals from the first front) are assigned
with rank 2, and so on;
4. Form a new population by generating an offspring population from the parents
and combining them with the parents (following standard GA procedure);
5. Compute the crowding distance for each individual;
6. Select the individuals based on a non-domination rank. The crowding distance
comparison is made if the individual belongs to the same rank;
7. Repeat the steps 3 – 6 until the stopping criterion is satisfied. The stopping
criterion may be a specified number of generations, maximum number of
function evaluations or computation time.
7.5.1 Preference ordering of the Pareto-optimal points
It is observed that the number of the Pareto-optimal solution grows with the
dimensionality of the objective functions used in the multiobjective optimisation. It was
reported that the qualitatively of the solutions are indistinguishable from each other.
However, it is often required to select a Pareto-optimal point from a set of many and it
becomes highly intractable when the number of solutions becomes large. For example,
the number of Pareto-optimal solutions in calibrating hydrological model parameters in
four dimension objective functions reaches easily above 100. Since the decision maker
generally prefers a small numbers of solutions, modelers have to face the task of
selecting a set of suitable model parameters from the numerous Pareto-optimal sets.
The concept of the preference order of efficiency, which was first introduced by Das
(1999), can be applied to select the most preferable solutions by setting up a hierarchical
ordering among the various solutions obtained from the multiobjective optimizations.
The preference ordering (PO) uses the following two theorems (Das, 1999), which are
strong domination criteria compared to Pareto domination:
The first theorem, efficiency of order k (k-Pareto-optimal points), considers all the
possible k-dimensional subspace of the original m-dimensional objective function space
(1≤ k ≤ m). A solution is defined as being efficient of order k, if this solution is not
dominated by any other solution in any of the k-dimensional subspaces. The second
theorem is the efficiency of order k with degree p (denoted as [k, p]). A solution is
defined as being efficient of order k with degree p, if it is not dominated by any other
solutions for exactly p out of the possible mCk k-dimensional subspaces.
The condition of efficiency of order can thus be used to help reduce the number of
solutions from the Pareto-optimal set by retaining only those that are regarded as the
best compromises. When the number of points selected is still considerably large, a
more stringent condition of efficiency with degrees is required to sort out better
solution. Thus by reducing the efficiency of order and increasing the degree of order in
a sequential manner, the criteria of Pareto-optimality is tightened, which enables the
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
161
modeller to sieve through the large number of Pareto-optimal sets and determine the
preferred solution (Khu and Madsen, 2005).
7.5.2 Results and discussions
The NSGA-II algorithm was applied to Bagmati catchment for multiobjective
calibration of HBV model parameters. Four different model performance measures that
emphasise different aspects of the hydrograph are considered as objective functions for
calibration. These objective functions are as follows:
Volume error: f1 (θ ) =
N
(7.16)
∑ [Qi − Qˆi ]
i =1
⎡1
Root mean square error (RMSE): f 2 (θ ) = ⎢
⎣⎢ N
⎡ 1
Low flow RMSE: f3 (θ ) = ⎢
⎢⎣ Nl
1/ 2
⎤
∑ [Qi − Qˆi ]2 ⎥⎥
i =1
⎦
⎡ 1
High flow RMSE: f 4 (θ ) = ⎢
⎢⎣ N h
Nl
1/ 2
⎤
∑ [Qi − Qˆi ]2 ⎥⎥
i =1
⎦
Nh
1/ 2
⎤
∑ [Qi − Qˆi ]2 ⎥
i =1
⎦⎥
N
(7.17)
(7.18)
(7.19)
where Qi is the observed discharge at time i, Qˆi is the simulated discharge, N is the
number of time steps in the calibration period, Nl is the number of time steps in low
flow events, Nh is the number of time steps in high flow events. In this study, low flow
events are defined as periods with flow below a threshold value of 50 m3/s and high
flow events are defined as periods with flow above 500 m3/s.
Since GA is a stochastic process, 10 independent calibration runs are carried out to
compare the quality of the solutions of each run. It is observed that each independent
run is comparable to the other. The maximum number of the generation and the
population size is set at 50 and 80, respectively. The probability of crossover and
mutation are set to 0.9 and 0.1, respectively. We also use a single objective GA
algorithm to calibrate each of the single objective functions, (equations (7.16) - (7.19)),
i.e., optimising for volume error f1(θ), RMSE f2(θ), low flow RMSE f3(θ), high flow
RMSE f4(θ).The following results are from one of the ten runs.
Table 7.14 presents the number of points on the Pareto front for all possible
combinations of the four objective functions (equations (7.16)-(7.19)). Since there are
four objective functions (m=4), the possible combinations are given by mCk , where K =
162 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Table 7.14. All possible combinations of the four performance measures, denoted as 1-2-3-4 and
the resulting number of Pareto-optimal solutions.
Runs 1-2-3-4 1-2-3 1-2-4 1-3-4 2-3-4
1-2
1-3
1-4
2-3
2-4
3-4
1
413
349
33
362
88
17
67
18
33
11
39
2
347
260
33
289
73
13
46
8
30
12
41
3
392
315
41
318
70
17
50
12
31
12
27
4
300
240
28
255
62
13
48
8
27
7
35
5
425
327
46
328
81
17
44
12
37
8
41
6
342
296
32
275
56
13
39
9
29
4
24
7
371
303
47
321
64
12
52
11
34
14
36
8
387
340
27
331
47
11
46
10
32
4
34
9
294
231
41
229
79
14
55
16
36
12
41
10
382
335
38
339
43
14
54
14
28
10
37
Avg. 365
300
37
305
66
14
50
12
32
9
36
{4, 3, 2}. In total there are 11 combinations – (i) one combination of all four objective
functions (denoted as (1-2-3-4); (ii) four combinations of any three objective functions
(i.e., (1-2-3), (1-2-4), (1-3-4), (2-3-4)); (iii) six combinations of any two objective
functions (i.e., (1-2), (1-3), (1-4), (2-3), (2-4), (3-4)). It can be seen from Table 7.14 that
the numbers of solutions for each of the 10 runs are not significantly different from each
other. Although this does not guarantee that the good solutions are present, it does
indicate that the quality of each run is comparable to the others.
It is observed that the resulting number of Pareto-optimal points in 4-dimensional
space is, on average, about 365. With such a large number of Pareto-optimal solutions,
it is not feasible to examine each and every one of the solutions to identify and select
the most appropriate calibration parameter set. One must therefore be able to sieve
through these solutions to obtain a smaller number of representative solutions. If we
examine the four possible combinations of any three objective functions (columns 3– 6),
the resulting number of Pareto-optimal points ranges between 37 and 305. If we
examine the six possible combinations of any two objective functions, the resulting
number of Pareto-optimal points ranges between 9 and 50. However, it should be noted
that these Pareto-optimal points for the two objective functions may not be Paretooptimal in the other objective function spaces.
Preference ordering has been applied to select a small number of solutions from the
higher dimension Pareto-optimal solutions. The results are presented in Table 7.15. As
the efficiency of order (k) decreases, the number of preferred solutions decreases; and as
the degree (p) of that order increases, the number of preferred solutions decreases. From
Table 7.14 we see that the number of solutions reduces from an average of 361 to 2
when the degree of order 3 increases from 1 to 4. Thus the problem becomes highly
manageable when the number of solutions becomes small while the qualities of these
solutions in terms of Pareto-optimality are good (they are of a high degree and high
order of efficiency, i.e., [3,4]).
Taking the example of run 1 in Table 7.15, it can be seen that if all four objective
functions are considered, there are a total of 413 solutions. However, a closer
examination of these solutions indicates that not all of them are Pareto-optimal if the
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
163
Table 7.15. Results of applying preference ordering to determine the number of preferred
solutions in the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd order of efficiency (k) for different degrees (p) denoted by
[k, p].
Runs
[4,1] [3,1] [3,2] [3,3] [3,4] [2,1] [2,2] [2,3] [2,4] [2,5] [2,6]
1
413
410
360
61
1
146
33
6
0
0
0
2
347
342
275
35
3
123
23
4
0
0
0
3
392
389
304
50
1
113
28
8
0
0
0
4
300
298
246
41
0
105
26
7
0
0
0
5
425
418
309
55
0
118
34
7
0
0
0
6
342
334
281
42
2
87
24
7
0
0
0
7
371
367
323
43
2
121
29
9
0
0
0
8
387
382
318
43
2
103
30
4
0
0
0
9
294
289
244
45
2
142
28
4
0
0
0
10
382
377
327
48
3
116
34
6
1
0
0
Avg.
365
361
299
46
2
117
29
6
0
0
0
objective function combinations are reduced and changed. When the combinations of
any three out of the four objective functions are considered, (i) 410 of the original 413
Pareto-optimal solutions are present in at least one of the four possible combinations;
(ii) 360 of the original 413 solutions are present in at least two of the four combinations;
(iii) 61 of the 413 solutions are present in at least three of the four combinations; and
(iv) one of the 413 solutions are present in all four combinations. Thus the preference
ordering techniques has selected one preferred solution out of the original 413 Paretooptimal solutions. If the number of solutions has not been reduced sufficiently, the order
of efficiency should be reduced to 2 instead of 3 and the degree of efficiency be
considered in turn. The remaining columns in Table 7.15 show such a process ([2,1],
[2,2], [2,3], [2,4], [2,5], [2,6]). For run 1 no solutions are present in degrees higher than
3 (i.e., four or more of the six two-objective combinations). Thus, in this case the one
[3,4] Pareto-optimal solutions are selected for further analysis.
Table 7.16 shows the comparison of the parameter values of the preferred [3,4]
Pareto-optimal set and the optimal values of the parameter for each of the single
objective functions. As expected, the values of each parameter vary depending on the
selected objective functions used for calibration. Note that the values of the parameters
of the preferred Pareto-optimal set are within the ranges of the parameter values of the
single objective calibrations except first two parameters. The variation of the optimal
model parameters sets of four single objective calibrations along the Pareto front is
shown in Figure 7.35.
Table 7.17 presents the comparison of the objective function values of the preferred
Pareto-optimal set and the objective function values for each of the single objective
optimisation. The widely used Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient (CoE) is also calculated as an
additional performance measure. As expected, the best calibration and validation results
for each objective functions are obtained using single objective functions optimisation.
For example, the lowest RMSE value of 7.00 m3/s on low flow events is obtained when
the parameters are optimised for single objective function f3(θ). Similarly, the lowest
RMSE value of 265.78 m3/s on high flow events is obtained via calibrating objective
function f4(θ). The results of the Pareto-optimal set are a good compromise between all
164 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Table 7.16. Comparison of the preferred model parameters with the optimal parameters
corresponding to the four single objective function values.
Optimised for single objective function
Preferred
Parameters
solution
f1
f2
f3
f4
FC
549.565
547.500
538.892
541.998
199.955
LP
0.987
0.810
0.301
0.830
0.831
ALFA
0.195
0.316
1.221
0.170
0.063
BETA
1.093
1.013
4.739
1.000
1.000
K
0.219
0.128
0.053
0.278
0.105
K4
0.068
0.049
0.019
0.275
0.300
PERC
6.104
7.019
3.038
6.977
0.364
CFLUX
0.226
0.315
0.086
0.184
0.057
MAXBAS
2.004
2.067
1.042
2.153
1.506
Figure 7.35. Normalised range of parameter values along the Pareto front. Thick solid magenta,
black, green, and red lines indicate parameter sets calibrated (single objective) for volume
error, RMSE, low flow RMSE, and high flow RMSE, respectively.
four objective functions and are within the best and worst solutions from the single
objective function optimisations.
Figure 7.36 shows the Pareto sets (best 80 solutions) of various two-objective
function combinations. Note that all these solutions are from Pareto sets of optimisation
results using all four objective functions. For comparison, the solutions obtained from
single objective optimisations and the preferred Pareto-optimal set are also shown in the
figure. Further analysis of correlation between the objective functions shows that the
objective function f2(θ) (i.e. RMSE) is highly correlated (linear correlation coefficient of
0.99) with the objective function f4(θ) (i.e. high flow RMSE). There is little positive
correlation (correlation coefficient of about 0.38) between objective function f1(θ)
(volume error) and f2(θ). As expected, the objective functions f1(θ) and f4(θ) are also
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
165
Table 7.17. Comparison of the ranges of model performances corresponding to the Pareto font
with the four single objective function values in calibration and verification period
Preferred Optimised for single objective function
Performance measures
solution
f1
f2
f3
f4
Calibration Data
Volume error %, f1
1.80
5.22
10.86
3.88
1.55E-5
RMSE, f2
93.14
91.31
223.74
99.34
123.48
Average low flow RMSE, f3
27.24
22.65
7.00
35.31
35.83
Average peak flow RMSE, f4
270.67
279.13
678.91
265.78
381.53
Nash-Sutcliffe CoE
0.83
0.84
0.02
0.81
0.70
Verification Data
Volume error %, f1
0.18
1.85
7.36
3.90
0.0533
RMSE, f2
99.25
95.07
276.48
102.21
126.6861
Average low flow RMSE, f3
24.47
21.05
36.00
31.25
26.287
Average peak flow RMSE, f4
303.06
305.40
881.58
284.86
391.556
Nash-Sutcliffe CoE
0.80
0.82
-0.53
0.79
0.6791
Note: Bold type indicates the best value.
Low flow RMSE (m3/s)
150
100
0
5
10
volume error (%)
30
25
20
15
10
5
20
10
0
0
100
150
200
RMSE (m3/s)
700
600
500
400
300
0
5
10
Volume error (%)
700
600
500
400
300
200
800
5
10
Volume error (%)
700
Peak flow RMSE (m3/s)
Low flow RMSE (m3/s)
35
30
Peak flow RMSE (m3/s)
RMSE (m3/s)
200
900
Peak flow RMSE (m3/s)
40
250
100
150
200
RMSE (m3/s)
600
500
400
300
10
20
30
40
Low flow RMSE (m3/s)
Figure 7.36. Various two-objective function combination plots of Pareto-optimal sets. Circle
indicates Pareto solutions in 4-D objective functions space, plus marks in circles indicate
Pareto solutions in 2-D space. Asterisk and cross indicates solutions corresponding to the
single objective calibration and square indicates the preferred Pareto-optimal set.
166 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
correlated with an almost equal value of the correlation coefficient (0.39). However, as
seen in the figure, other two-objective functions combinations such as f1(θ) and f3(θ) or
f2(θ) and f3(θ) or f3(θ) and f4(θ) have negative correlation (correlation coefficient ranges
from 0.53-0.60). The negative correlation means the two objective functions are
conflicting.
The simulated hydrographs obtained by multi and single objective optimisations in
both calibration and validation periods are shown in Figure 7.37. The dark shaded
region is the range of the simulation obtained by the best 80 Pareto-optimal sets. It is
observed that simulations obtained by single objective optimisations are within the
range of hydrographs obtained by the Pareto-optimal sets. Furthermore, as expected, the
simulation obtained by the parameters optimised for low flow RMSE reproduces low
flow accurately, while the simulation obtained by the parameters optimised for high
flow RMSE is close to the high flow events. The preferred Pareto-optimal set gives the
compromise simulation.
7.5.3 Uncertainty assessment
Equifinality principle of Beven and Binley (1992) is restated here that no unique
optimum parameter set exists in calibration of hydrological model, but rather there will
always be several different models that mimic equally well an observed natural process.
In a multiobjective context, there is a multitude of parameter combinations that are
equally good in reproducing the observed responses; thus multiobjective calibration
accords with the equifinality principle. These equally good parameters sets are the
Pareto-optimal set.
An illustration of the interpretation of Pareto-optimal sets of parameter within
equifinality principle is shown in Figure 7.35. It is observed that parameter sets cover a
large range of parameter values, but produce virtually equal good simulations according
to a specified objective function criterion. Consequently these parameter sets produce a
range of simulated hydrographs as shown in Figure 7.37. These figures illustrate that
there are considerable ranges of the model simulations which are equally good
according to a specified objective function criterion. In a way, this range can be
interpreted as uncertainty of the model prediction corresponding to the Pareto-optimal
parameter sets, and it provides additional information necessary for risk based decision
making. With respect to the UNEEC method, as mentioned in Chapter 6, we could
apply the UNEEC method for each solution of the Pareto-optimal sets, thus producing
the several uncertainty bounds corresponding to Pareto-optimal sets. More research is
anticipated in the future in this direction.
Chapter 7. Application of UNEEC method
167
Figure 7.37. Ranges of simulated hydrographs corresponding to the Pareto parameter sets. The
ranges are also compared with the solutions obtained with four single objective functions and
preferred solution. (a and b) Part of the calibration period and (c and d) part of the verification
period.
168 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
7.6
Conclusions
This chapter presents the application of UNEEC method to estimate uncertainty in the
model prediction for the three different catchments, which have highly varied hydroclimatic characteristics. The uncertainty bound of the model prediction estimated with
the UNEEC method is compared with the observed data. The results show that the
percentage of the observed discharge falling within the estimated uncertainty bound is
very close to the specified confidence level used to produce these bounds. It has been
demonstrated that uncertainty bounds are consistent with the order of the magnitude of
the model errors.
A comparative assessment of the uncertainty bounds with those obtained by other
existing uncertainty methods including GLUE, the meta-Gaussian, the quantile
regression indicates that the uncertainty estimation with the UNEEC method is
reasonably accurate. The UNEEC method is computationally efficient and can be
applied to any kind of models. This application concludes that the machine learning
techniques can be used to analyse, model and predict the residual uncertainty of the
optimal model output. Note that residual uncertainty considers all sources of uncertainty
in aggregated form through model errors.
Chapter 8
Conclusions and
Recommendations
This research explores machine learning techniques for uncertainty analysis
and prediction, particularly in rainfall-runoff modelling. This chapter presents
conclusions drawn from this research and recommendations for future research
and development for uncertainty analysis in the field of rainfall-runoff
modelling.
8.1
Rainfall-runoff modelling and uncertainty analysis
Rainfall-runoff models are widely used in hydrology for a large range of applications
and play an important role in optimal planning and management of water resources in
river basins. By definition, a rainfall-runoff model is only an abstraction of a complex,
non-linear, time and space varying hydrological process of reality; there are many
simplifications and idealisations. These models contain parameters that cannot often be
measured directly, but can only be estimated by calibration against a historical record of
measured output data. The system input (forcing) data such as rainfall, temperature, etc.
and observed output are often contaminated by measurement errors. Consequently
predictions made by such a model are far from being perfect and uncertain, no matter
how sophisticated the models are and how perfectly the models are calibrated. It is vital,
therefore, that uncertainty should be recognized and properly accounted for.
Once the existence of uncertainty in a rainfall-runoff model is acknowledged, it
should be managed by a proper uncertainty analysis and prediction procedures aimed
eventually at reducing its impact. There a number of such procedures actively used but
our analysis makes it possible to conclude that they are often based on strong
assumptions and suffer from certain deficiencies. This thesis is devoted to developing
new procedures for uncertainty analysis and prediction and testing them on various case
studies.
It should be noted that still the practice of uncertainty analysis and use of the results
of such analysis in decision making is not widespread (Pappenberger and Beven, 2006).
It is not always clear for practitioners how uncertainty analysis will contribute to
170 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
improved decision making. The uncertainty analysis requires careful interpretation in
order to understand the meaning and significance of the results. It is through this
process of scrutiny and discussion that the most useful insights for decision makers are
obtained (Hall and Solomatine, 2008).
8.2
Uncertainty analysis methods
This thesis investigates a number of methods proposed in the literature to provide
meaningful uncertainty bounds of the model predictions. The uncertainty analysis
methods in rainfall-runoff models vary mainly in the following ways: (i) the type of
rainfall-runoff models used; (ii) the source of uncertainty to be treated; (iii) the
representation of uncertainty; (iv) the purpose of the uncertainty analysis; and (v) the
availability of resources. Uncertainty analysis is a well-accepted procedure and has
comparatively long history in physically based and conceptual modelling.
Uncertainty analysis methods can be broadly classified into six categories (see, e.g.,
Montanari, 2007; Shrestha and Solomatine, 2008): (i) analytical methods; (ii)
approximation methods; (iii) simulation and sampling-based methods; (iv) Bayesian
methods; (v) methods based on the analysis of model errors; and (vi) fuzzy set theorybased methods. Most of the existing methods analyse the uncertainty of the uncertain
input variables by propagating it through the deterministic model to the outputs, and
hence require the assumption of their distributions and error structures. Most of the
approaches based on the analysis of the model errors require certain assumptions
regarding the residuals (e.g., normality and homoscedasticity). Obviously, the relevancy
and accuracy of such approaches depend on the validity of these assumptions. The fuzzy
theory-based approach requires knowledge of the membership function of the quantity
subject to the uncertainty, which could be very subjective. Furthermore, the majority of
the uncertainty methods account for only a single source of uncertainty and ignore other
sources of uncertainty explicitly. Methods based on the analysis of the model errors
typically compute the uncertainty of the “optimal model” that takes into account all
sources of errors without attempting to disaggregate the contribution given by their
individual sources. No single method of uncertainty estimation can be claimed as being
perfect in representing uncertainty. Our analysis allows us to conclude that the machine
learning methods which are able to build accurate models based on data (in this case, on
the data about the past model errors) have excellent potential for their use as uncertainty
predictors.
8.3
Machine learning methods for uncertainty analysis
Over the last 15 years many machine learning techniques have been used to build datadriven rainfall-runoff models. There are also examples of applying these techniques as
error correctors to improve the accuracy of prediction/forecasting made by process
based rainfall-runoff models. Generally they are used to update the output variables by
forecasting the error of the process based models. Such techniques to update the model
Chapter 8. Conclusions and recommendations
171
predictions are in fact reducing the uncertainty of predictions. However these techniques
do not provide explicitly the uncertainty of the model prediction in the form of
prediction bounds or probability distribution function of the model output.
In this thesis we explore the possibility of using machine learning techniques to
provide reasonable uncertainty estimation for the model output predicted by data-driven
or process based models. We develop two methods, namely the MLUE for parametric
and the UNEEC method for residual uncertainty analysis of rainfall-runoff models.
8.3.1 A method for parameter uncertainty analysis
Monte Carlo (MC) simulation is a widely used method for uncertainty analysis in
rainfall-runoff modeling and allows the quantification of the model output uncertainty
resulting from uncertain model parameters. It involves random sampling from the
distribution of uncertain input and successive model runs until a desired statistically
significant distribution of outputs is obtained. The MC based methods for uncertainty
analysis of the outputs of the process models are flexible, robust, conceptually simple
and straightforward; however methods of this type require a large number of samples
(or model runs), and their applicability is sometimes limited to simple models. In the
case of computationally intensive models, the time and resources required by these
methods could be prohibitively expensive.
A number of methods have been developed to improve the efficiency of MC based
uncertainty analysis methods and still these methods require a considerable number of
model runs in both offline and operational mode to produce a reliable and meaningful
uncertainty estimation. In this thesis we develop a method to predict parametric
uncertainty of rainfall-runoff model by building machine learning models that emulate
the MC uncertainty results. The proposed method is referred to as the MLUE (Machine
Learning in parameter Uncertainty Estimation). The motivation to develop MLUE
method is to perform fast parameter uncertainty analysis and prediction. We assume that
the uncertainty of the model prediction at particular time step depends on the
corresponding forcing input data and the model states (e.g., rainfall, antecedent rainfall,
soil moisture etc.). We believe that uncertainty associated with prediction of
hydrological variables such as runoff in similar hydrological conditions is also similar.
The MLUE method emulates the MC simulations and belongs to the class of
surrogate, or meta-models. The novelty and the characteristics of the methodology are:
1. The method explicitly builds an emulator for the MC uncertainty results while
other methods build an emulator for a single simulation model;
2. The MLUE emulator is based on machine learning techniques, while other
techniques are Bayesian (e.g., O’Hagan, 2006), or use nonlinear differential
equations (e.g., data based mechanistic model of Young (1998));
3. The method is computationally efficient and does not involve any additional
runs of the process model; it can therefore be easily applied to computationally
demanding process models;
172 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
4. The method can be applied easily to any Monte Carlo based uncertainty analysis
methods.
The MLUE method is applied to a conceptual rainfall-runoff model for the Brue
catchment in UK. The generalised likelihood uncertainty estimation method (GLUE)
has been used to analyse the parameter uncertainty of the model. Machine learning
methods have been applied to estimate the uncertainty results (e.g., quantile or
prediction intervals) generated by the GLUE method. We have shown how domain
knowledge and analytical techniques are used to select the input data for the machine
learning models used in the MLUE method.
Three machine learning models, namely artificial neural networks, model trees, and
locally weighted regression, are used to predict the uncertainty of the model predictions.
The performance of the MLUE method is measured by its predictive capability (e.g.,
coefficient of correlation and root mean squared error) and the statistics of the
uncertainty (e.g., the prediction intervals coverage probability and the mean prediction
intervals). It is demonstrated that machine learning methods can predict the uncertainty
results with reasonable accuracy. The great advantage of the MLUE method is that once
the machine learning models are developed, which is done offline, it can predict the
uncertainty of the model output in a fraction of second which otherwise would take
several hours or day of computation time by the MC based uncertainty analysis
methods. The proposed techniques could be useful in real time applications when it is
impracticable to run a large number of simulations for complex hydrological models for
an uncertainty analysis and when the forecast lead time is very short.
8.3.2 A method for residual uncertainty analysis
Analysis of research literature has shown that the assessment of model uncertainty of
the optimal (calibrated) rainfall-runoff models has received relatively little attention.
Most research typically focuses on one single source of uncertainty and the majority of
the studies are oriented toward parametric uncertainty. There are many situations,
however, when the contribution of the parameter uncertainty to the total uncertainty is
smaller compared to the other types, for instance input (rainfall) uncertainty or structure
uncertainty. The consequence of considering only parametric uncertainty is that the
predictive uncertainty bounds estimated are too narrow and thus a considerable part of
the observed data fall outside these bounds. Furthermore, disaggregation of the total
model uncertainty into its source components is difficult, particularly in cases common
to hydrology where the model is non-linear and complex, and different sources of
uncertainty may interact.
Generally the analysis of uncertainty consists of propagating the uncertainty of the
input and parameters (which is measured by distribution function) through the model by
running it for sufficient number of times and deriving the distribution function of the
model outputs. In this thesis, we present a different approach to analyzing the
uncertainty. We focus on residual uncertainty which is defined as the remaining
uncertainty of the optimal model. Here the model optimality is understood in the
following sense: the model is calibrated, so that the model parameters and structure are
Chapter 8. Conclusions and recommendations
173
such that the model error is at minimum. However, even such a model simulates or
predicts the output variable with errors, so its output contains uncertainty.
We develop a novel methodology to estimate the uncertainty of the optimal model
output by analyzing historical model residuals errors. This method is referred to as
UNcertainty Estimation based on Local Errors and Clustering (UNEEC). The
characteristics of the methodology are:
1. Residuals are used to characterize the uncertainty of the model prediction;
2. No assumptions are made about the probability distribution function of the
model residuals;
3. The method uses the concept of the model optimality and does not involve any
additional runs of the process model;
4. Specialized uncertainty models are built for particular areas of the state space
(e.g., hydrometeorological condition). Clustering is needed to identify these
areas;
5. The uncertainty models are built using machine learning techniques;
6. The method is computationally efficient and can therefore be easily applied to
computationally demanding process models;
7. The method can be applied easily to any existing model no matter whether it is
physically based or conceptual or data-driven.
The UNEEC method consists of the three main steps: (i) clustering the input data in
order to identify the homogenous regions of the input space; (ii) estimating the
probability distribution of the model residuals for the regions identified by clustering;
and (iii) building the machine learning models of the probability distributions of the
model error. Fuzzy clustering has been used to cluster the input data. Three machine
learning models, namely artificial neural networks, model trees, locally weighted
regression, are used to predict the uncertainty of the model predictions. We apply
domain knowledge and analytical techniques to select the input data for the machine
learning models used in the UNEEC method.
The UNEEC method is applied to rainfall-runoff models for three contrasting
catchments: (i) data-driven models of the Sieve catchment, Italy; (ii) lumped process
based model of the Brue catchment, UK; and (iii) lumped process based model of the
Bagmati catchment, Nepal. The performance of the UNEEC method is measured by two
uncertainty statistics namely the prediction intervals coverage probability and the mean
prediction intervals. It has been demonstrated that uncertainty bounds estimated by the
UNEEC method are consistent with the order of the magnitude of the model errors. The
results show that the percentage of the observed discharge falling within the estimated
uncertainty or prediction bounds is very close to the specified confidence level used to
produce these bounds. In other words, the PICP values are consistently close to the
desired degree of the confidence levels used to derive the prediction bounds with the
reasonable width of the bounds.
174 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
We also compare the uncertainty of the model prediction with other uncertainty
estimation methods, namely generalised likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE),
meta-Gaussian, quantile regression. The comparison results show that the UNEEC
method generates the consistent and interpretable uncertainty estimates, and this is an
indicator that it can be a valuable tool for assessing uncertainty of various predictive
models.
8.4
Multiobjective calibration and uncertainty
Practical experience with the calibration of the rainfall-runoff model suggests that a
single objective function value is often inadequate to measure properly the simulation of
all the important characteristics of the system that are reflected in the observations.
Furthermore, recent advances in computational power and the increased availability of
distributed hydrological observations have led to more complex hydrological model,
often predicting multiple hydrological fluxes simultaneously. Therefore, there is an
increasing interest in multiobjective calibration of rainfall-runoff model parameters.
In this research, we have applied multiobjective optimisation routine NSGA-II to
calibrate the HBV rainfall-runoff model for the Bagmati catchment in Nepal. Four
objective functions that emphasise different aspects of the runoff hydrograph are the
volume error, root mean squared error (RMSE), RMSE of low flows, and RMSE of
peak flows. We have implemented Pareto preference ordering in order to select a small
number of solutions from the four dimensional Pareto-optimal solutions. The preferred
Pareto-optimal set is compared with the optimal values of the parameter set for each of
the single objective functions. It is observed that the results of the preferred Paretooptimal set is a good compromise between all four objective functions and are within
the best and worst solutions from the single objective function optimisations.
Multiobjective calibration also allows the quantification of the uncertainty in a form
of the range of the model simulations corresponding to the Pareto-optimal sets of the
parameter; and it provides additional information necessary for risk based decision
making.
8.5
Summary of conclusions
The aim of this research is to develop tools and techniques for analysing, modelling and
predicting uncertainty in rainfall-runoff modelling. This research explores machine
learning techniques for uncertainty analysis and prediction, particularly in rainfallrunoff modelling. We develop two methods, namely the MLUE for parametric and the
UNEEC method for residual uncertainty analysis of rainfall-runoff models. We apply
these methods on various case studies to analyse, model and predict uncertainty in the
model predictions. This research has demonstrated that machine learning methods are
able to build reasonably accurate and efficient models for predicting uncertainty. We
Chapter 8. Conclusions and recommendations
175
conclude that the machine learning techniques can be valuable tools for uncertainty
analysis of various predictive models.
8.6
Recommendations
• In this research the MLUE method has been used to emulate the results of GLUE
method. MLUE can be also applied to other MC based uncertainty analysis
methods such as Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling, Latin hypercube sampling
etc. Furthermore, in the MLUE method, we consider only parameter uncertainty
of the process model and ignore other sources of uncertainty explicitly. The
MLUE method, in principle can be also applied to other sources of uncertainty –
input and structure uncertainty individually or combination of two or more
sources of uncertainty.
• The UNEEC method relies on the concept of model optimality instead of
equifinality. If the assumption of model optimality i.e. the existence of a single
‘‘best’’ model is not valid, then all of the models that are considered ‘‘good’’
should be considered, as is done when the concept of equifinality is adopted.
This can be achieved by combining such models in an ensemble, or by
generating the meta-models of uncertainty for each possible combination of the
model structure and parameter set, or even involving the uncertainty associated
with the input data. Consequently, instead of having a single set of uncertainty
bounds for each model prediction, there will be a set of such bounds generated
for each member of an ensemble. The use of such several uncertainty bounds in
the decision making process would be really challenging.
• In the UNEEC method we analyse historical model residuals resulting from
single objective calibration of rainfall-runoff model using Nash-Sutcliffe model
efficiency criterion. It would be important to investigate the sensitivity of the
uncertainty results with other objective functions (e.g., volume error, RMSE of
low flows or RMSE of high flows) used in the optimization algorithm. Another
interesting research is to apply the UNEEC method for multiobjective calibration
results and produce the uncertainty bounds for each Pareto-optimal solution –
this will be analogous to using the equifinality principle.
• We consider two types of rainfall-runoff models – data-driven and conceptual
(HBV). It is recommended to test the proposed uncertainty analysis methods to
physically based and other conceptual rainfall-runoff models in various case
studies. Furthermore, the methodologies have considerable potential in
application to other mathematical models of water based systems.
• As a machine learning method we have used ANN, model trees and locally
weighted regression methods. Further studies should be aimed at testing other
machine learning techniques including support vector machines, other instance
based learning methods, etc.
•
In multiobjective calibration we used Pareto preference ordering to select a small
number of solutions from more than 400 Pareto-optimal solutions in four
176 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
dimensions. The procedure to select a small number of preferred solutions from
the Pareto-optimal solutions in this research consists of two independent steps –
firstly generating the Pareto-optimal solutions using multiobjective optimisation
algorithm (such as NSGA-II) and secondly using preference ordering. It would
be worthwhile to apply a multiobjective optimisation algorithm based on the
preference ordering that is supposed to be more effective in achieving a better
grading of a set of solutions to a problem that consists of many objective
functions.
• Although the concept of model uncertainty is well recognized in the research
community, the practice of uncertainty analysis and use of the results of such
analysis in the decision making is not widespread. It is not always clear how
uncertainty analysis will contribute to improving decision making. One of the
most important challenges is to communicate effectively to the decision maker,
the insights and the advantages an analysis of uncertainty provides and to
convert uncertain results to into simple message understood by the general
public. The further research should be fostered into incorporating the uncertainty
analysis results in risk based decision making.
ABBREVIATIONS
ACCO
: Adaptive Clustering Coverage
AMI
: Average Mutual Information
ANN
: Artificial Neural Network
cdf
: Cumulative Distribution Function
CoC
: Coefficient of Correlation
CoE
: Nash-Sutcliffe Model Efficiency
FCM
: Fuzzy C-means
GLUE
: Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation
HBV
: Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning (Hydrological Bureau
Water balance section)
LHS
: Latin Hypercube Sampling
LWR
: Locally Weighted Regression
MC
: Monte Carlo
MCMC
: Markov Chain Monte Carlo
MLP
: Multi Layer Perceptron
MLUE
: Machine Learning in Parameter Uncertainty Estimation
MPI
: Mean Prediction Interval
MT
: Model Trees
NQT
: Normal Quantile Transform
NSGA
: Non-dominated Sorting Genetic Algorithm
pdf
: Probability Distribution Function
PI
: Prediction Interval
PICP
: Prediction Interval Coverage Probability
QR
: Quantile Regression
RMSE
: Root Mean Squared Error
SNR
: Signal-to-Noise Ratio
UNEEC
: Uncertainty Estimation based on Local Errors and Clustering
NOTATIONS
ytp : pth quantile of the model output
μ
: Fuzzy membership function, [0,1]
ε
: Model error
θ
: Model parameters
α
: Significant level used to derive prediction intervals, (0, 1)
C
: Cluster label
C
: Number of cluster
D
: Input data {X, y}
d(.) : Distance function
e
: Quantile of error
ec
: Quantile of error for cluster
J
: Objective function
m
: Fuzzy exponential coefficient, [1,∞]
M
: Primary model
n
: Number of data
O
: Order of computational complexity
: Number of variables
p
PI
L
: Lower prediction interval
PI
U
: Upper prediction interval
L
: Lower prediction limit
U
PL
: Upper prediction limit
Q
: Discharge (L3/T)
R
: Rainfall (L/T)
PL
RE : Effective rainfall (L/T)
s
: Number of simulations
P
: Partition matrix
U
: Uncertainty model
v
: Centre of clusters
w
: Weight vector
x, X : Input vector, matrix
y
: Observed or recorded or target output
ŷ
: Model output
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SAMENVATTING
Neerslag-afvoer modellen worden regelmatig gebruikt in de hydrologie voor een groot
aantal toepassingen en spelen een belangrijke rol in de optimale planning en beheer van
watervoorraden in stroomgebieden van rivieren. Een neerslag-afvoer model is per
definitie een vereenvoudiging van de werkelijke complexe, niet-lineaire, tijd en ruimte
gevarieerde, hydrologische processen. Dergelijke modellen bevatten parameters die niet
vaak direct kunnen worden gemeten, maar die slechts kunnen worden geschat door
calibratie met een historische reeks van gemeten outputgegevens. De gegevensreeksen
van de systeeminput en de output bevatten vaak meetfouten. Daardoor zijn de
voorspellingen die door zo’n model worden geproduceerd verre van perfect en inherent
onzeker. Het is daarom essentieel dat de onzekerheid wordt erkend en dat er op de juiste
manier rekening mee wordt gehouden. Zodra het bestaan van onzekerheid in een
neerslag-afvoer model wordt erkend, moet deze worden geanalyseerd met behulp van de
juiste onzekerheidsanalyse en voorspellingsprocedures die gericht zijn op het verkleinen
van de effecten van onzekerheid. Er zijn een aantal van dergelijke procedures die actief
worden gebruikt, maar onze analyse maakt het mogelijk om te concluderen dat deze
vaak gebaseerd zijn op sterke veronderstellingen en dat ze bepaalde tekortkomingen
hebben. Deze thesis is gewijd aan het ontwikkelen van nieuwe procedures voor
onzekerheidsanalyse en -voorspelling en deze te testen op diverse afzonderlijke
casussen.
In deze thesis onderzoeken we een aantal methoden die in de literatuur worden
voorgesteld om zinvolle onzekerheidsgrenzen aan modelvoorspellingen toe te kennen.
De meeste bestaande methoden bepalen de onzekerheid van de inputvariabelen door
deze te propageren door het deterministische model en de output te analyseren en deze
methoden vereisen daarom aannames over de inputverdeling en foutenstructuren. De
meerderheid van de onzekerheidsmethoden past slechts één enkele onzekerheidsbron
toe en negeert andere bronnen uitdrukkelijk. Geen enkele methode van schatting van de
onzekerheid kan als perfect worden verondersteld in het juist weergeven van
onzekerheid. Onze analyse leidt tot de conclusie dat de Machine Learning methoden die
nauwkeurige modellen kunnen bouwen op basis van gegevens (in dit geval op gegevens
van vorige modelfouten), uitstekend kunnen worden gebruikt als voorspellers van
onzekerheid.
Machine Learning betreft het ontwerp en de ontwikkeling van algoritmen die
computers toerusten om prestaties met de tijd te verbeteren op basis van gegevens. Het
belangrijkste aandachtspunt van deze Machine Learning methoden is het automatisch
opstellen van modellen met uit ervaring verkregen gegevens. De afgelopen 15 jaar zijn
Machine Learning technieken gebruikt om Data-Driven (op gegevens gebaseerde)
modellen van neerslag-afvoer te construeren. Deze technieken zijn tot op heden nog niet
gebruikt om de onzekerheid van modelvoorspellingen expliciet te bepalen in de vorm
van onzekerheidsgrenzen of kansverdelingen, in het bijzonder in de neerslag-afvoer
modellering. Doel van dit onderzoek is de Machine Learning methoden te onderzoeken
om onzekerheid in neerslag-afvoer modellering te analyseren, te modelleren en te
198 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
voorspellen. We hebben twee methoden ontwikkeld, namelijk MLUE voor
parametrische en UNEEC voor totale onzekerheidsanalyse van neerslag-afvoer
modellen.
De Monte Carlo simulatie is een vaak gebruikte methode voor onzekerheidsanalyse
in neerslag-afvoer modellering en staat de kwantificering toe van de modeloutputonzekerheid als gevolg van onzekere modelparameters. De op Monte Carlo
simulatie gebaseerde methoden voor onzekerheidsanalyse zijn flexibel, robuust,
conceptueel eenvoudig en ongecompliceerd; methoden van dit type vereisen echter een
groot aantal steekproeven (of model runs) en hun toepassing is soms beperkt tot
eenvoudige modellen. Indien reken-intensieve modellen zouden worden gebruikt, zou
de tijd en de middelen die deze methode vereist, buitensporig duur kunnen zijn. Een
aantal methoden zijn ontwikkeld om de efficiency van de op de Monte Carlo gebaseerde
onzekerheidsanalyse methoden te verbeteren en nog steeds vereisen deze methoden een
aanzienlijk aantal runs om zowel in off-line als operationele modus een betrouwbare en
zinvolle schatting van de onzekerheid te produceren. In deze thesis ontwikkelen we een
methode om de parametrische onzekerheid van neerslag-afvoer modellen te voorspellen
door Machine Learning methoden te ontwikkelen die de onzekerheidsresultaten van de
Monte Carlo methode simuleren. De voorgestelde methode wordt aangeduid als MLUE
(Machine Learning in parameter Uncertainty Estimation). De motivatie om de MLUE
methode te ontwikkelen is om snelle parametrische onzekerheidsanalyse en
voorspelling uit te kunnen voeren.
De MLUE methode is toegepast op een geaggregeerd conceptueel neerslag-afvoer
model van het stroomgebied van de Brue (Groot-Brittanië). De Generalised Likelihood
Uncertainty Estimation methode (GLUE, gegeneraliseerde waarschijnlijkheid
onzekerheidsschatting) is gebruikt om de parameteronzekerheid van het model te
analyseren. Wij passen de MLUE methode toe om de onzekerheidsresultaten te schatten
die door de GLUE methode worden geproduceerd. We hebben laten zien hoe
domeinkennis en de analysetechnieken worden gebruikt om de inputgegevens die in de
MLUE methode worden gebruikt, te selecteren. Drie Machine Learning methoden,
namelijk Artificial Neural Networks (kunstmatige neurale netwerken), Model Trees
(model (beslis)bomen), en Locally Weighted Regression (lokaal gewogen regressie),
zijn gebruikt om de onzekerheid van de modelvoorspellingen te voorspellen. In de
MLUE methode zijn de prestaties van de Machine Learning methoden gemeten op
grond van hun voorspellend vermogen (o.a., de correlatie coefficiënt, en de wortel van
de gemiddelde kwadratische fout (RMSE)) en statistieken van de onzekerheid (o.a., de
dekkingskans van voorspellingsgrenzen, en de gemiddelde voorspellingsgrenzen). Het
is aangetoond dat de Machine Learning methoden de onzekerheidsresultaten met
redelijke nauwkeurigheid kunnen voorspellen. Het grote voordeel van de MLUE
methode is de efficiency waarmee de simulatieresultaten van het Monte Carlo systeem
worden gereproduceerd; het kan hierdoor een effectief instrument zijn om in real time
de onzekerheid van overstromingsvoorspellingen in te schatten.
Over het algemeen bestaat de analyse van onzekerheid uit het propageren van de
onzekerheid van de input en van de parameters (welke aangegeven wordt met een
verdelingsfunctie) door het model voldoende keren te runnen om zo de
Samenvatting
199
verdelingsfunctie van de model output te bepalen. Als onderdeel van dit onderzoek
ontwikkelen we een nieuwe methodologie, die de onzekerheid van de optimale
modeloutput analyseert, modelleert en voorspelt door historische modelfouten te
analyseren. Deze methode noemen we UNcertainty Estimation based on Local Errors
and Clustering (UNEEC, Onzekerheid Schatting gebaseerd op Locale Fouten en
Groepering). De UNEEC methode bestaat uit drie belangrijke stappen: (i) het groeperen
van de inputgegevens om de homogene gebieden van de inputruimte te identificeren,
(ii) het schatten van de kansverdelingen van de modelfouten voor de geïdentificeerde
gebieden, en (iii) het bouwen van de Machine Learning modellen van de
kansverdelingen van de modelfouten. Fuzzy groepering is gebruikt om de
inputgegevens te groeperen. Drie Machine Learning methoden zijn gebruikt om de
onzekerheid van de modelvoorspellingen te voorspellen namelijk: Artificial Neural
Networks (kunstmatige neurale netwerken), Model Trees (model (beslis)bomen), en
Locally Weighted Regression (lokaal gewogen regressie)
De UNEEC methode wordt toegepast op neerslag-afvoer modellen van drie
verschillende stroomgebieden: (i) Data-Driven modellen voor het stroomgebied van de
Sieve, Italië; (ii) een geaggregeerd conceptueel neerslag-afvoer model voor het
stroomgebied van de Brue, Groot-Brittanië; en (iii) een geaggregeerd conceptueel
neerslag-afvoer model voor het stroomgebied van de Bagmati, Nepal. Het is aangetoond
dat de met de UNEEC methode geschatte onzekerheidsgrenzen in overeenstemming zijn
met de orde grootte van de modelfouten. De resultaten laten zien dat het percentage
geobserveerde afvoerwaarden dat binnen de geschatte voorspellings- of
onzekerheidsgrenzen
valt,
bijna
gelijk
is
aan
het
gespecificeerde
betrouwbaarheidsinterval dat is gebruikt om deze grenzen niet te breed te laten worden.
We vergelijken de onzekerheid van de modelvoorspellingen met andere methoden om
onzekerheid te schatten, namelijk GLUE en twee statistische methoden, metaGaussiaans en kwantitatieve regressie. De vergelijkingsresultaten tonen aan dat de
UNEEC methode consistent smallere onzekerheidsgrenzen genereert.
In dit onderzoek hebben we ook de Multi-Objective (voor meerdere doelfuncties)
optimaliseringsroutine NSGA-II toegepast om het HBV neerslag-afvoer model te
calibreren voor het stroomgebied van de Bagmati. Vier doelfuncties die verschillende
aspecten van de afvoer hydrograaf benadrukken zijn de volumefout, de wortel van de
gemiddelde kwadratische fout (RMSE), de RMSE van lage afvoeren, en de RMSE van
piekafvoeren. We passen Pareto-voorkeur sortering toe om een klein aantal oplossingen
te selecteren uit de vier-dimensionale Pareto-optimale oplossingen. De geselecteerde
Pareto-optimale reeks wordt vergeleken met de optimale waarden van de parameters
voor elk van de vier afzonderlijke doelfuncties. De resultaten laten zien dat de
geselecteerde Pareto-optimale reeks een goed compromis is tussen alle vier de
doelfuncties, en binnen de beste en slechtste oplossingen van elke afzonderlijke
doelfunctie-optimalisatie valt. Multi-Objective calibratie staat ook de kwantificering
van de onzekerheid toe in de vorm van de verschillende modelsimulaties die
overeenkomen met de Pareto-optimale parameter sets; en het verstrekt extra informatie
die nodig is voor besluitvorming op grond van de risicobenadering.
200 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Dit onderzoek heeft aangetoond dat Machine Learning methoden redelijk
nauwkeurige en efficiënte modellen kunnen bouwen voor het voorspellen van
onzekerheid, in het bijzonder in neerslag-afvoer modellering. Wij komen tot de
conclusie dat de Machine Learning technieken een waardevol instrument voor
onzekerheidsanalyse van diverse voorspellingsmodellen kunnen zijn. Het onderzoek
geeft ook aanbevelingen voor toekomstig onderzoek en ontwikkeling voor
onzekerheidsanalyse op het gebied van neerslag-afvoer modellering.
Durga Lal Shrestha
Delft, The Netherlands
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to express my sincere thanks to my supervisors Prof. Dimitri P. Solomatine
and Prof. Roland Price for their continuous guidance and support with great patience in
making this research possible. Prof. Dimitri, I am greatly indebted to you for your effort
to stimulate and formulate this research within EU project. Your creative and dynamic
inspiration encouraged me throughout this research period. You not only provided me
scientific support, but also social and personal support. Prof. Price, you always
remained helpful and available when I needed you. Several invaluable and inspiring
discussions with you have helped to improve this research. I have learnt and benefited a
lot from you two. I enjoyed very much working with both of you.
This research project was financed by the European Community’s Sixth Framework
Program through the grant to the budget of the Integrated Project FLOODsite, contract
GOCE-CT-2004-505420. I enjoyed very much working with the FLOODsite partner.
During the project period I had opportunities to discuss my research with Prof. J. Hall
and H. Harvey, Newcastle University, UK, Prof. M. Borga, University of Padova, Italy,
P. van Gelder, TU Delft, Netherlands, Prof E. Todini, University of Bologna, Italy. I am
very thankful to all of them.
It has been great opportunity to conduct my research with the Department of
Hydroinformatics and Knowledge Management at UNESCO-IHE. All the staff
members are very friendly and supportive. I would like to thank all of them for the
informal and fruitful discussions I had with them during the research period. I am
grateful to Ir. Jan Luijendijk, head of the department, for supporting and providing me
the nice working space and environment in the department premises. I am also thankful
to all the staff of UNESCO-IHE; they are very cooperative and provided me help when
I needed. I am also grateful to Jolanda Boots for assisting in administrative and practical
matter of this research, Laura Kwak for co-ordinating at the last stage of the research
period, Peter Stroo for managing to print out this thesis. I would like to thank Vera
Schouten and Schalk Jan van Andel for helping to prepare the Dutch translation of the
summary of this thesis.
I would like to thank to Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Kathmandu,
Nepal for providing opportunity first to do M.Sc. in Hydroinformatics at UNESCO-IHE
and then extending my leave to conduct this research. In particular, I am grateful to
former Director General Aadarsh P. Pokharel and Deputy Director General Keshav
Sharma for their support and encouragement. The Natural Environment Research
Council, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, [Moore, R.; Pedder, M.;
Cluckie, I.] is thanked for making the HYREX data set available via the British
Atmospheric Data Centre Web site at http://badc.nerc.ac.uk/data/hyrex/.
202 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
I would like to thank the members of the PhD awarding committee, in particular,
Prof. S. Uhlenbrook (UNESCO-IHE), Prof. A. Montanari (University of Bologna), Prof.
J. Hall (Newcastle University), Prof. N. van de Giesen (TU Delft) for their invaluable
comments and suggestions.
My genuine thanks go to the PhD colleagues at UNESCO-IHE with whom I shared
my experiences, sufferings and joys. In particular, I always cherish the memory of
sharing the office together and research ideas with PhD colleague Gerald Corzo. My
sincere appreciation is also due to all of my M.Sc. students who helped me directly or
indirectly to complete this research. I would like to thank to the Nepalese friends and
seniors in Delft and in the Netherlands for reminding our culture and festivals by
organizing social events and gatherings. I am also grateful to Dutch friend Marie-José
van der Sandt for helping the Dutch translation of the summary of this thesis. There are
many others to name and thank, but may be it is wiser not to forget them.
Finally, I am very thankful to my family members, relatives and friends in Nepal, in
particular my mother for constant deep love, brothers and sisters for encouragement,
parents-in-law for continuous support. Above all, my special and warm thanks go to my
wife Srijana and son Sujan for their patience and love. Srijana, you have provided me
unconditional support to complete this research smoothly. You suffered more than me.
This journey would not be possible without your encouragement, inspiration and
scarification.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Durga Lal Shrestha graduated in civil engineering with distinction from Tribhuvan
University, Nepal in July 1996. He worked as consultant engineer in private engineering
consultancy from April 1996. In November 1996 he joined Department of Hydrology
and Meteorology under Ministry of Science and Technology at Kathmandu, Nepal as
hydrologist engineer. During this time his major responsibilities were design,
monitoring and networking of hydrological stations; analysis and processing of
hydrological data; design, development and management of hydrological database. In
1998 he was also involved as project engineer for Nepal Irrigation Sector Project. In
October 2000 he came to IHE (now UNESCO-IHE), delft to follow the Master’s
program in Hydroinformatics. He received his M.Sc. degree in Hydroinformatics with
distinction in April 2002. From May 2002 to February 2004 he worked as researcher in
Delft Cluster project in Department of Hydroinformatics and Knowledge Management
at UNESCO-IHE. During this period his research work was mainly related to
application of data-driven modelling in water systems. Since March 2004 he has been at
UNESCO-IHE as a PhD student; involved in EU Sixth framework project FLOODsite
(March 2004-Februray 2009); and assisted in various ways in the Hydroinformatics
Master’s Programme. From June, 2009 he continued to work as a Postdoctoral
researcher in the Department of Hydroinformatics and Knowledge Management.
During the research period he published more than 20 technical papers in
international journal and conferences. He is a member of the International Association
of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), International Association of Hydraulic Research
(IAHR), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), IEEE, Computational
Intelligence Society, European Geosciences Union, the Nepal Engineer’s Association
(NEA) and the Nepal Engineer Council (NEC).
Publications List (not all of them are related to this thesis)
Peer Reviewed International Journals
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). A novel approach to parameter
uncertainty analysis of hydrological models using neural networks. Hydrology and Earth
System Science, 13, pp. 1235-1248.
Solomatine, D. and Shrestha, D.L. (2009). A novel method to estimate total model uncertainty
using machine learning techniques. Water Resources Research, 45, W00B11,
doi:10.1029/2008WR006839.
Solomatine, D., Maskey, M. and Shrestha, D.L. (2008). Instance-based learning compared to
other data-driven methods in hydrological forecasting. Hydrological Processes, 22(2), pp.
275-287.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2008). Data-driven approaches for estimating uncertainty in
rainfall-runoff modelling. Intl. J. River Basin Management, 6(2), pp. 109-122.
204 Uncertainty analysis in rainfall-runoff modelling: Application of machine learning techniques
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Experiments with AdaBoost.RT, an improved
boosting scheme for regression. Neural Computation, 18(7), pp. 1678-1710.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Machine learning approaches for estimation of
prediction interval for the model output. Neural Networks, 19(2), pp. 225-235.
Conference Proceedings
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). Parametric uncertainty estimation of a
hydrological model using piece wise linear regression surrogates, Proc. of the 33rd IAHR
Congress, IAHR, Vancouver, Canada, August 9-14, 2009.
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). ANNs and other machine learning
techniques in modelling models' uncertainty, Proc of 19th International Conference on
Artificial Neural Networks, September 14-17, Limassol, Cyprus.
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). Encapsulation of Monte-Carlo
uncertainty analysis results in a predictive machine learning model, Proc. of the 8th
International Conference on Hydroinformatics, Chile.
Adel, A., Shrestha, D.L., van Griensven, A., and Solomatine, D. (2009). Comparison of
calibration and uncertainty analysis methods: case study of Nzoia River SWAT model, Proc.
of the 8th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, Chile.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2008). Uncertainty modelling in flood forecasting:
application of data driven models, Proc of the Floodrisk 2008, Oxford, UK.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2008). Comparing machine learning methods in estimation
of model uncertainty, Proc. of the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, IEEE,
Hong Kong, China.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2007). Predicting hydrological models uncertainty: use of
machine learning, Proc. of the IAHR Congress, IAHR, Venice, Italy.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). A Novel method to estimate the model uncertainty
based on the model errors. In: A. Voinov, A.J. Jakeman and A.E. Rizzoli (eds.), Proc. of the
iEMSs Third Biennial Meeting: "Summit on Environmental Modelling and Software",
International Environmental Modelling and Software Society, Burlington, USA.
Solomatine, D., Maskey, M. and Shrestha, D.L. (2006). Eager and lazy learning methods in the
context of hydrologic forecasting, Proc. of the International Joint Conference on Neural
Networks, IEEE, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Shrestha, D.L., Rodriguez, J., Price, R.K. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Assessing model prediction
limits using fuzzy clustering and machine learning, Proc. of the 7th International Conference
on Hydroinformatics, Research Publishing, Nice.
Changjun, C., Shrestha, D.L., Corzo, G. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Comparison of methods for
uncertainty analysis of hydrologic models, Proc. of the 7th International Conference on
Hydroinformatics, Research Publishing, Nice, pp. 1309-1316.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2005). Estimation of prediction intervals for the model
outputs using machine learning, Proc. of the International Joint Conference on Neural
Networks, IEEE, Montreal, Canada, pp. 2700-2705.
205
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2005). Quantifying uncertainty of flood forecasting using
data driven modeling, Proc. of the 29th IAHR Congress, IAHR, Seoul, South Korea, pp. 715726.
Solomatine, D. and Shrestha, D.L. (2004). AdaBoost.RT: a boosting algorithm for regression
problems, Proc. of the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks, IEEE, Budapest,
Hungary, pp. 1163-1168.
Bhattacharya, B., Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2003). Neural networks in reconstructing
missing wave data in sedimentation modelling, Proc. of the XXXth IAHR Congress, THEME
D: Maritime Hydraulics, Thessaloniki, Greece, pp. 209-216.
Presentation and Research Abstracts
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). A novel approach to parameter
uncertainty analysis of hydrological models: Application of machine learning techniques,
Proc of the Geophysical Research Abstracts, European Geosciences Union.
Shrestha, D.L., Kayastha, N. and Solomatine, D. (2009). A novel approach to Monte Carlo-based
uncertainty analysis of hydrological models using artificial neural networks, Proc of the
Geophysical Research Abstracts, European Geosciences Union.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2008). Novel method to estimate predictive uncertainty of
flow forecasting, Proc of the Geophysical Research Abstracts, European Geosciences Union
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2007). Comparing machine learning approaches in
estimating model uncertainty of hydrological conceptual models, Proc. of the Geophysical
Research Abstracts, European Geosciences Union.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2007). Neural networks and clustering in estimation of the
total model uncertainty of hydrologic models, Proc. of the Geophysical Research Abstracts,
European Geosciences Union.
Shrestha, D.L. and Solomatine, D. (2006). Fuzzy clustering and neural networks in localized
estimation of the total model uncertainty, Proc. of the Geophysical Research Abstracts,
European Geosciences Union.
Solomatine, D., Shrestha, D.L. and Chen, C. (2006). Estimating parameter uncertainty of
hydrological models by Metropolis-Hastings, SCEM-UA, and Adaptive cluster covering
(ACCO) algorithms, Proc. of the Geophysical Research Abstracts, European Geosciences
Union.
Solomatine, D., Bhattacharya, B. and Shrestha, D.L. (2005). Data-driven modelling vs. machine
learning in flood forecasting, Proc. of the Geophysical Research Abstracts, European
Geosciences Union.
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