Uncertainty assessment of hydrologic model states and parameters: Sequential data assimilation using the particle filter

Hamid Moradkhani, Kuo Lin Hsu, Hoshin Gupta, Soroosh Sorooshian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

487 Scopus citations


Two elementary issues in contemporary Earth system science and engineering are (1) the specification of model parameter values which characterize a system and (2) the estimation of state variables which express the system dynamic. This paper explores a novel sequential hydrologic data assimilation approach for estimating model parameters and state variables using particle filters (PFs). PFs have their origin in Bayesian estimation. Methods for batch calibration, despite major recent advances, appear to lack the flexibility required to treat uncertainties in the current system as new information is received. Methods based on sequential Bayesian estimation seem better able to take advantage of the temporal organization and structure of information, so that better compliance of the model output with observations can be achieved. Such methods provide platforms for improved uncertainty assessment and estimation of hydrologic model components, by providing more complete and accurate representations of the forecast and analysis probability distributions. This paper introduces particle filtering as a sequential Bayesian filtering having features that represent the full probability distribution of predictive uncertainties. Particle filters have, so far, generally been used to recursively estimate the posterior distribution of the model state; this paper investigates their applicability to the approximation of the posterior distribution of parameters. The capability and usefulness of particle filters for adaptive inference of the joint posterior distribution of the parameters and state variables are illustrated via two case studies using a parsimonious conceptual hydrologic model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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