Assessment of model behavior and acceptable forcing data uncertainty in the context of land surface soil moisture estimation

Gift Dumedah, Jeffrey P. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The sources of uncertainty in land surface models are numerous and varied, from inaccuracies in forcing data to uncertainties in model structure and parameterizations. Majority of these uncertainties are strongly tied to the overall makeup of the model, but the input forcing data set is independent with its accuracy usually defined by the monitoring or the observation system. The impact of input forcing data on model estimation accuracy has been collectively acknowledged to be significant, yet its quantification and the level of uncertainty that is acceptable in the context of the land surface model to obtain a competitive estimation remain mostly unknown. A better understanding is needed about how models respond to input forcing data and what changes in these forcing variables can be accommodated without deteriorating optimal estimation of the model. As a result, this study determines the level of forcing data uncertainty that is acceptable in the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) to competitively estimate soil moisture in the Yanco area in south eastern Australia. The study employs hydro genomic mapping to examine the temporal evolution of model decision variables from an archive of values obtained from soil moisture data assimilation. The data assimilation (DA) was undertaken using the advanced Evolutionary Data Assimilation. Our findings show that the input forcing data have significant impact on model output, 35% in root mean square error (RMSE) for 5cm depth of soil moisture and 15% in RMSE for 15cm depth of soil moisture. This specific quantification is crucial to illustrate the significance of input forcing data spread. The acceptable uncertainty determined based on dominant pathway has been validated and shown to be reliable for all forcing variables, so as to provide optimal soil moisture. These findings are crucial for DA in order to account for uncertainties that are meaningful from the model standpoint. Moreover, our results point to a proper treatment of input forcing data in general land surface and hydrological model estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-36
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Data assimilation
  • Evolutionary strategy
  • Hydrologic genomic mapping
  • Land surface modeling
  • Soil moisture
  • Uncertainty estimation

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