Quantification of uncertainty in pedotransfer function-based parameter estimation for unsaturated flow modeling

Hailin Deng, Ming Ye, Marcel G. Schaap, Raziuddin Khaleel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


While pedotransfer functions (PTFs) have long been applied to estimate soil hydraulic parameters for unsaturated flow and solute transport modeling, the uncertainty associated with the estimates is often ignored. The objective of this study is to evaluate uncertainty of the PTF-estimated soil hydraulic parameters and its effect on numerical simulation of moisture flow. Contributing to the parameter estimation uncertainty are (1) the PTF intrinsic uncertainty caused by limited data used for PTF training and (2) the PTF input uncertainty in pedotransfer variables (i.e., PTF inputs). The PTF intrinsic uncertainty is assessed using the bootstrap method by generating multiple bootstrap realizations of the soil hydraulic parameters; the realizations follow normal or lognormal distributions. The PTF input variables (i.e., bulk density and soil texture) are obtained using the cokriging technique. The PTF input uncertainty is quantified by assuming that the cokriging estimates follow a normal distribution. Our results show that the PTF input uncertainty dominates over the PTF intrinsic uncertainty and determines the spatial distribution of the PTF parameter estimation uncertainty. When the parameter estimation uncertainty is included, the spatial variability of the measured soil hydraulic parameters is better captured. This is also the case for the observed moisture contents, whose spatial variability is well bracketed by the prediction intervals. However, this is only possible after the PTF input uncertainty is considered. These results suggest that additional sample acquisition for the PTF input variables would have a more favorable impact on reduction of the parameter estimation uncertainty than collecting additional soil hydraulic parameter measurements for PTF development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW04409
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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