Calibrating a land surface model of varying complexity using multicriteria methods and the Cabauw dataset

Y. Xia, A. J. Pitman, H. V. Gupta, M. Leplastrier, A. Henderson-Sellers, L. A. Bastidas

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58 Scopus citations


The multicriteria methodology, which provides a means to estimate optimal ranges for land surface model parameter values via calibration, is evaluated. Following calibration, differences between schemes resulting from effective parameter values can be isolated from differences resulting from scheme structure or scheme parameterizations. The method is applied to the Project for the Intercomparison of Land Surface Parameterization Schemes (PILPS) phase-2a data from the Cabauw site in the Netherlands using the Chameleon Surface Model (CHASM) as the surrogate for a range of land surface schemes. Simulations are performed calibrating six modes of CHASM, representing a range of land surface complexity, against observed net radiation and latent and sensible heat fluxes. The six modes range from a simple bucket model to a complex mosaic-type structure with separate energy balances for each mosaic tile and explicit treatment of transpiration, canopy interception, and bare-ground evaporation. Results demonstrate that the performance of CHASM depends on the complexity of the representation of the surface energy balance. If the multicriteria method is used with two observed variables, the performance of the model improves little with incremental increases in complexity until the most complex version of the model is reached. If the multicriteria method is used with three observed variables, the most complex mode is shown to calibrate more accurately and more precisely than the simple modes. In all cases, every calibrated mode performs better than simulations using the default PILPS phase-2a parameters. The performance of the most complex mode of CHASM suggests that more complex representations of the surface energy balance generally improve the calibrated performance of land surface schemes. However, all modes, when calibrated, retain a residual error that most likely is due to parameterization errors included in the scheme. Most error is contained in the simulation of the latent heat flux, which suggests that, to improve CHASM further, the representation of the surface hydrological processes should be developed. Thus, the multicriteria method provides a means to assess the performance of a single model or group of land surface models and provides guidance as to the directions scheme development should take.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-194
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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