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Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 3427-3440, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-3427-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review article
11 Jul 2017
The evolution of process-based hydrologic models: historical challenges and the collective quest for physical realism
Martyn P. Clark1, Marc F. P. Bierkens2, Luis Samaniego3, Ross A. Woods4, Remko Uijlenhoet5, Katrina E. Bennett6, Valentijn R. N. Pauwels7, Xitian Cai8, Andrew W. Wood1, and Christa D. Peters-Lidard9 1Research Applications Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
2Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands
3UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
4Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1TR, UK
5Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
6Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA
7Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
8Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
9Earth Sciences Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Abstract. The diversity in hydrologic models has historically led to great controversy on the correct approach to process-based hydrologic modeling, with debates centered on the adequacy of process parameterizations, data limitations and uncertainty, and computational constraints on model analysis. In this paper, we revisit key modeling challenges on requirements to (1) define suitable model equations, (2) define adequate model parameters, and (3) cope with limitations in computing power. We outline the historical modeling challenges, provide examples of modeling advances that address these challenges, and define outstanding research needs. We illustrate how modeling advances have been made by groups using models of different type and complexity, and we argue for the need to more effectively use our diversity of modeling approaches in order to advance our collective quest for physically realistic hydrologic models.

Citation: Clark, M. P., Bierkens, M. F. P., Samaniego, L., Woods, R. A., Uijlenhoet, R., Bennett, K. E., Pauwels, V. R. N., Cai, X., Wood, A. W., and Peters-Lidard, C. D.: The evolution of process-based hydrologic models: historical challenges and the collective quest for physical realism, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 21, 3427-3440, https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-21-3427-2017, 2017.
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Short summary
The diversity in hydrologic models has led to controversy surrounding the “correct” approach to hydrologic modeling. In this paper we revisit key modeling challenges on requirements to (1) define suitable model equations, (2) define adequate model parameters, and (3) cope with limitations in computing power. We outline the historical modeling challenges, summarize modeling advances that address these challenges, and define outstanding research needs.
The diversity in hydrologic models has led to controversy surrounding the “correct” approach...
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