Technical note: Pitfalls in using log-transformed flows within the KGE criterion

Santos, Léonard; Thirel, Guillaume; Perrin, Charles

Log-transformed discharge is often used to calculate performance criteria to better focus on low flows. This prior transformation limits the heteroscedasticity of model residuals and was largely applied in criteria based on squared residuals, like the Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE). In the recent years, NSE has been shown to have mathematical limitations and the Kling–Gupta efficiency (KGE) was proposed as an alternative to provide more balance between the expected qualities of a model (namely representing the water balance, flow variability and correlation). As in the case of NSE, several authors used the KGE criterion (or its improved version KGEinline-formula) with a prior logarithmic transformation on flows. However, we show that the use of this transformation is not adapted to the case of the KGE (or KGEinline-formula) criterion and may lead to several numerical issues, potentially resulting in a biased evaluation of model performance. We present the theoretical underpinning aspects of these issues and concrete modelling examples, showing that KGEinline-formula computed on log-transformed flows should be avoided. Alternatives are discussed.

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Santos, Léonard / Thirel, Guillaume / Perrin, Charles: Technical note: Pitfalls in using log-transformed flows within the KGE criterion. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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