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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2019-69
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2019-69
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Model description paper 28 Mar 2019

Model description paper | 28 Mar 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Model Development (GMD).

HydroMix v1.0: a new Bayesian mixing framework for attributing uncertain hydrological sources

Harsh Beria1, Joshua R. Larsen2, Anthony Michelon1, Natalie C. Ceperley1, and Bettina Schaefli1 Harsh Beria et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Abstract. Tracers have been used for over half a century in hydrology to quantify water sources with the help of mixing models. In this paper, we build on classic Bayesian methods to quantify uncertainty in mixing ratios. Such methods infer the probability density function (pdf) of the mixing ratios by formulating pdfs for the source and target concentrations and inferring the underlying mixing ratios via Monte Carlo sampling. However, collected hydrological samples are rarely abundant enough to robustly fit a pdf to the sources. Our approach, called HydroMix, solves the linear mixing problem in a Bayesian inference framework where the likelihood is formulated for the error between observed and modelled target variables, which corresponds to the parameter inference set-up commonly used in hydrological models. To address small sample sizes, every combination of source samples is mixed with every target tracer concentration. Using a series of synthetic case studies, we evaluate the performance of HydroMix. We then use HydroMix to show that snowmelt accounts for 60–62 % of groundwater recharge in a Swiss Alpine catchment (Vallon de Nant), despite snowfall only accounting for 40–45 % of the annual precipitation. Using this example, we then demonstrate the flexibility of this approach to account for uncertainties in source characterization due to different hydrological processes. We also address an important bias in mixing models that arises when there is a large divergence between the number of collected source samples and their flux magnitudes. HydroMix can account for this bias by using composite likelihood functions that effectively weights the relative magnitude of source fluxes. The primary application target of this framework is hydrology, but it is by no means limited to this field.

Harsh Beria et al.
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Short summary
We develop a Bayesian mixing model to address the issue of small sample sizes to describe different sources in hydrological mixing applications. Using composite likelihood functions, the model accounts for an often overlooked bias arising due to unweighted mixing. We test the model efficacy using a series of statistical benchmarking tests and demonstrate its real life applicability by applying it to a Swiss Alpine catchment to obtain the proportion of groundwater recharged from rain vs. snow.
We develop a Bayesian mixing model to address the issue of small sample sizes to describe...
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