The role of hydrograph indices in parameter estimation of rainfall-runoff models

Eylon Shamir*, Bisher Imam, Efrat Morin, Hoshin V. Gupta, Soroosh Sorooshian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


A reliable prediction of hydrologic models, among other things, requires a set of plausible parameters that correspond with physiographic properties of the basin. This study proposes a parameter estimation approach, which is based on extracting, through hydrograph diagnoses, information in the form of indices that carry intrinsic properties of a basin. This concept is demonstrated by introducing two indices that describe the shape of a streamflow hydrograph in an integrated manner. Nineteen mid-size (223-4790 km2) perennial headwater basins with a long record of streamflow data were selected to evaluate the ability of these indices to capture basin response characteristics. An examination of the utility of the proposed indices in parameter estimation is conducted for a five-parameter hydrologic model using data from the Leaf River, located in Fort Collins, Mississippi. It is shown that constraining the parameter estimation by selecting only those parameters that result in model output which maintains the indices as found in the historical data can improve the reliability of model predictions. These improvements were manifested in (a) improvement of the prediction of low and high flow, (b) improvement of the overall total biases, and (c) maintenance of the hydrograph's shape for both long-term and short-term predictions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2187-2207
Number of pages21
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Model calibration
  • Objective function
  • Rainfall-runoff models
  • Streamflow indices


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