Multi-source data assimilation for physically based hydrological modeling of an experimental hillslope

Botto, Anna; Belluco, Enrica; Camporese, Matteo

Data assimilation has recently been the focus of much attention for integrated surface–subsurface hydrological models, whereby joint assimilation of water table, soil moisture, and river discharge measurements with the ensemble Kalman filter (EnKF) has been extensively applied. Although the EnKF has been specifically developed to deal with nonlinear models, integrated hydrological models based on the Richards equation still represent a challenge, due to strong nonlinearities that may significantly affect the filter performance. Thus, more studies are needed to investigate the capabilities of the EnKF to correct the system state and identify parameters in cases where the unsaturated zone dynamics are dominant, as well as to quantify possible tradeoffs associated with assimilation of multi-source data. Here, the CATHY (CATchment HYdrology) model is applied to reproduce the hydrological dynamics observed in an experimental two-layered hillslope, equipped with tensiometers, water content reflectometer probes, and tipping bucket flow gages to monitor the hillslope response to a series of artificial rainfall events. Pressure head, soil moisture, and subsurface outflow are assimilated with the EnKF in a number of scenarios and the challenges and issues arising from the assimilation of multi-source data in this real-world test case are discussed. Our results demonstrate that the EnKF is able to effectively correct states and parameters even in a real application characterized by strong nonlinearities. However, multi-source data assimilation may lead to significant tradeoffs: the assimilation of additional variables can lead to degradation of model predictions for other variables that are otherwise well reproduced. Furthermore, we show that integrated observations such as outflow discharge cannot compensate for the lack of well-distributed data in heterogeneous hillslopes.

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Botto, Anna / Belluco, Enrica / Camporese, Matteo: Multi-source data assimilation for physically based hydrological modeling of an experimental hillslope. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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