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Predicting discharge from a complex karst system using the ensemble smoother with multiple data assimilation

Abstract

Can the ensemble smoother with multiple data assimilation be used to predict discharge in an Alpine karst aquifer? The answer is yes, at least, for the Bossea aquifer studied. The ensemble smoother is used to fit a unit hydrograph simultaneously with other parameters in a hydrologic model, such as base flow, infiltration coefficient, or snow melting contribution. The fitting uses observed discharge flow rates, daily precipitations, and temperatures to define the model parameters. The data assimilation approach gives excellent results for fitting individual events. After the analysis of 27 such events, two average models are defined to be used to predict flow discharge from precipitation and temperature, one model for prediction during spring (when snow melting has an impact) and another one during autumn, yielding acceptable results, particularly for the fall rainfall events. The lesser performance for the spring events may indicate that the snow melting approximation needs to be revised. The results also show that the parameterization of the infiltration coefficient needs further exploration. Overall, the main conclusion is that the ensemble smoother could be used to define a characteristic “signature” of a karst aquifer to be used in forecast analyses. The reasons for using the ensemble smoother instead of other stochastic approaches are that it is easy to use and explain and provides an estimation of the uncertainty about the predictions.

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Data availability

The data supporting this study’s findings are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the Bossea Cave Scientific Laboratory personnel and ARPA Piemonte for the many years of work spent maintaining the instrumentation, collecting data, and sharing the data.

Funding

J. Jaime Gómez-Hernández acknowledges grant PID2019-109131RB-I00 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033.

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All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Model construction, model runs, and preliminary analyses were performed by Alessandro Pansa, who also wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors commented on and edited the several versions until the current one. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. Jaime Gómez-Hernández.

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Pansa, A., Butera, I., Gómez-Hernández, J.J. et al. Predicting discharge from a complex karst system using the ensemble smoother with multiple data assimilation. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00477-022-02287-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00477-022-02287-y