Reconciling theory with observations: Elements of a diagnostic approach to model evaluation

Hoshin V. Gupta, Thorsten Wagener, Yuqiong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

425 Scopus citations


This paper discusses the need for a well-considered approach to reconciling environmental theory with observations that has clear and compelling diagnostic power. This need is well recognized by the scientific community in the context of the 'Predictions in Ungaged Basins' initiative and the National Science Foundation sponsored 'Environmental Observatories' initiative, among others. It is suggested that many current strategies for confronting environmental process models with observational data are inadequate in the face of the highly complex and high order models becoming central to modern environmental science, and steps are proposed towards the development of a robust and powerful 'Theory of Evaluation'. This paper presents the concept of a diagnostic evaluation approach rooted in information theory and employing the notion of signature indices that measure theoretically relevant system process behaviours. The signature-based approach addresses the issue of degree of system complexity resolvable by a model. Further, it can be placed in the context of Bayesian inference to facilitate uncertainty analysis, and can be readily applied to the problem of process evaluation leading to improved predictions in ungaged basins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3802-3813
Number of pages12
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number18
StatePublished - Aug 30 2008


  • Diagnosis
  • Evaluation
  • Information
  • Model identification
  • Signatures
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconciling theory with observations: Elements of a diagnostic approach to model evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this