Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 135-154

First online:

A review of techniques for parameter sensitivity analysis of environmental models

  • D. M. HambyAffiliated withWestinghouse Savannah River Company Savannah River Technology Center Aiken

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Mathematical models are utilized to approximate various highly complex engineering, physical, environmental, social, and economic phenomena. Model parameters exerting the most influence on model results are identified through a ‘sensitivity analysis’. A comprehensive review is presented of more than a dozen sensitivity analysis methods. This review is intended for those not intimately familiar with statistics or the techniques utilized for sensitivity analysis of computer models. The most fundamental of sensitivity techniques utilizes partial differentiation whereas the simplest approach requires varying parameter values one-at-a-time. Correlation analysis is used to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables. Regression analysis provides the most comprehensive sensitivity measure and is commonly utilized to build response surfaces that approximate complex models.