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399

A. W. MINNS & M. J. HALL

International Institute for Infrastructural, Hydraulic and Environmental

Engineering (IHE), PO Box 3015, 2601 DA Delft, The Netherlands

Abstract A series of numerical experiments, in which flow data were

generated from synthetic storm sequences routed through a conceptual

hydrological model consisting of a single nonlinear reservoir, has

demonstrated the closeness of fit that can be achieved to such data sets

using Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs). The application of different

standardization factors to both training and verification sequences has

underlined the importance of such factors to network performance. Trials

with both one and two hidden layers in the ANN have shown that,

although improved performances are achieved with the extra hidden

layer, the additional computational effort does not appear justified for

data sets exhibiting the degree of nonlinear behaviour typical of rainfall

and flow sequences from many catchment areas.

Modlisation pluie-dbit par des rseaux neuroneaux artificiels

Rsum Dans une srie d'expriences numriques, des dbits ont t

gnrs partir de squences synthtiques d'vnements pluvieux grce

l'utilisation d'un modle hydrologique conceptuel constitu d'un seul

rservoir non linaire. Ces expriences ont montr la qualit de l'ajustement que l'on peut obtenir pour ce type de donnes en mettant en oeuvre

des Rseaux Neuronaux Artificiels (RNA). L'utilisation de diffrents

facteurs de standardisation au cours des squences d'apprentissage et de

vrification a permis de mettre en vidence la grande influence de ces

facteurs sur la qualit des performances d'un rseau. Les essais effectus

avec des RNA comprenant une ou deux couches caches on montr que,

si une amlioration de la performance est obtenue avec une couche cache

supplmentaire, l'effort de calcul correspondant ne semble pas tre justifi

pour les ensembles de donns manifestant le degr de comportement non

linaire typique pour des squences de pluies et de dbits rencontres dans

la plupart des bassins versants.

INTRODUCTION

Some thirty years ago, Amorocho & Hart (1964) commented upon the growth

of two distinct approaches to the problem of establishing the relationship

between rainfall and streamflow which they referred to as physical hydrology

and systems investigation. The former term was used to describe investigations

into the behaviour of and interdependence between hydrological processes, the

long term objective being a complete synthesis of the hydrological cycle. The

progress achieved with this approach during the last three decades has

Open for discussion until 1 December 1996

400

materially assisted with the development of hydrological models that are both

physically-based and spatially-distributed, such as the Systme Hydrologique

Europen (Abbott et al., 1986). Nevertheless, there remains a high degree of

empiricism in the representation of certain hydrological processes such that the

ideal of determining parameter values by direct measurement rather than calibration remains some distance away.

In contrast, systems investigation, which Amorocho & Hart (1964)

regarded as being concerned with the direct solution of technological problems

subject only to the constraints imposed by the available data and so not subject

to 'physical' considerations, has recently undergone something of a renaissance,

largely through the adoption of artificial intelligence techniques such as

Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) and Genetic Algorithms (e.g. Babovic &

Minns, 1994). The particular advantage of the ANN is that, even if the 'exact'

relationship between sets of input and output data is unknown but is acknowledged to exist, the network can be 'trained' to iearn' that relationship,

requiring no a priori knowledge of the catchment characteristics.

In the hydrological context, the input pattern consists of rainfall depths

and the output the discharges at the catchment outlet. Since the contributions

from different parts of the catchment arrive at the outlet at different times, the

variations in the discharge output may be considered to be determined by the

rainfall depths at both the concurrent and previous time intervals. Preliminary

work (Hall & Minns, 1993) has indicated that the number of antecedent rainfall

ordinates required is broadly related to the lag time of the drainage area. Since

the ANN relates the pattern of inputs to the pattern of outputs, volume continuity is not a constraint. However, care must be taken to avoid the presentation to the ANN of contradictory information. More specifically, the input

pattern may contain many zeros both at the start of the rising limb of the output

hydrograph and during the recession when rainfall has ended and flows are

decreasing. These two situations could be distinguished by providing an extra

input consisting of a binary variable (say, zero for pre-storm and unity for

post-storm conditions), but previous work (Hall & Minns, 1993) has indicated

that antecedent flow ordinates both perform the same function and provide

additional information about the input pattern, i.e. the longer the input rainfalls

remain zero, the more the output decreases. The use of an output variable in

the input is encountered in other applications of ANNs (Hertz et al., 1991) and

is referred to as recurrent back-propagation. The inclusion of the flow at time

t 1 as an input to determine the flow at time t may appear to introduce an

element of flood routing into the model, but that is not the purpose of the

ANN. Unlike the conventional rainfall-runoff model, the network seeks to learn

patterns and not to replicate in detail the physical processes involved in

transforming input into output. The learning process does not depend upon any

assumptions relating to the form of the input-output transfer function, the

number of (active) parameters or their possible physical interaction. In the

terms of the discussion by Amorocho & Hart (1964), the ANN could perhaps

be regarded as the ultimate black-box model.

401

important further consideration is the applicability of ANNs to more complex

'real-world' catchments. However, although the standard solution algorithm for

ANNs will achieve convergence for almost any problem (Rumelhart et al.,

1994), it would appear that the most simple ANN architectures have more

difficulty in learning more nonlinear relationships. This paper therefore

describes a series of numerical experiments that were undertaken with the

specific purpose of evaluating the performance of ANNs on rainfall and runoff

data from theoretical catchments exhibiting a range of behaviour patterns

varying from the linear to the highly (in hydrological terms) nonlinear. Owing

to the virtual impossibility of collecting hydrometric data from catchments that

could be classified a priori as either linear or nonlinear, but were otherwise

identical in catchment characteristics and input rainfall patterns, a wellestablished conceptual hydrological modelling package, RORB (Mein et al.,

1974), was employed to generate streamflow responses from a synthetic time

series of storm events for representative (linear and nonlinear) catchments. In

this manner, the ANN could be tested solely on its performance in learning the

(linear or nonlinear) relationship between rainfall and runoff, all other factors

being regarded as equal. These numerical experiments are, of course, only the

first step towards testing the generality of ANNs for use on more complex,

real-world catchments, since all the problems of spatial distribution of rainfall

and seasonal changes in catchment response are avoided. The latter effects are

currently the subject of on-going investigation.

ARTIFICIAL NEURAL N E T W O R K S

The ability of the brain to perform difficult operations and to recognize

complex patterns, even if those patterns are distorted with a high degree of

noise, has fascinated scientists for centuries. The particular ability of the brain

to learn from experience without a predefined knowledge of the underlying

physical relationships makes it an exceptionally flexible and powerful calculating device that scientists would also like to mimic.

Yet other scientists are devoted to reproducing, or modelling, physical

phenomena by making use of electronic computational machines to solve everincreasingly complex partial differential equations and empirical relationships.

These scientists are supported by a rapid increase in the computational capacity

of modern computers and an emerging recognition of the advantages of

massively parallel computation (parallel distributed processing) that performs

the required calculations with ever-increasing speed. However, although the

design and construction of the hardware for parallel computation is relatively

straightforward, the software required for creating algorithms to utilize this

parallel architecture most efficiently is still quite limited.

These two groups of scientists, pursuing what appear to be quite different

goals, have found a common ground in the field of artificial neural networks.

402

One of the major applications of ANNs is in pattern recognition and classification or, more generally, system identification. In brief, an ANN consists of

layers of processing units (representing biological neurons - see Hopfield,

1994) where each processing unit in each layer is connected to all processing

units in the adjacent layers (representing biological synapses and dendrites).

Many publications describe in much greater detail the architecture of various

types of ANNs (for example, Beale & Jackson, 1990; Aleksander & Morton,

1990; Hertz et al., 1991). The selection of an appropriate architecture for an

ANN will depend upon the problem to be solved and the type of learning

algorithm to be applied. In particular, the use of Kohonen networks for

unsupervised classification of patterns and the use of Hopfield networks for

recalling previously learned patterns are two approaches commonly used in

pattern recognition. For the more general approach to systems identification,

one wishes to train an ANN to provide a correct output response to a given

input stimulus. In particular, for rainfall-runoff modelling, the input stimulus

corresponds to the measured rainfall and the output response to the measured

runoff from a catchment. A multi-layer, feed-forward, perceptron-type ANN

is one of the most suitable types of ANN for learning the stimulus-response

relationship for a given set of measured data. Figure 1 shows a general schematization of a 3-layer, feed-forward ANN of the type that was used in this study.

The working of an ANN can best be described by following the operations involved during training and computation. An input signal, consisting of

an array of numbers xi is introduced to the input layer of processing units or

nodes, as shown in Fig. 1. The signals are carried along connections to each

of the nodes in the adjacent layer and can be amplified or inhibited through

Output signal

'idden layer or

nternal representation

units

Input Signal

network (ANN).

403

weights, wt, associated with each connection. The nodes in the adjacent layer

act as summation devices for the incoming (weighted) signals (Fig. 2). The

incoming signal is transformed into an output signal, Oj, within the processing

units by passing it through a threshold function. A common threshold function

for the ANN depicted in Fig. 1 is the sigmoid function defined as:

fix) = _ J _

(1)

which provides an output in the range 0 < f(x) < 1. In most thresholding

routines, the threshold function usually takes the form of a single-valued, harddelimiter. The sigmoidal threshold function is chosen for mathematical convenience because it resembles a hard-limiting step-function for extremely large

positive and negative values of the incoming signal and also gives useful

information about the response of the processing unit to inputs that are close

to the threshold value. Furthermore, the sigmoid function has a very simple

derivative that makes the subsequent implementation of the learning algorithm

much easier.

Input pattern

wi Summation and

w*5\threshold unit

Output pattern

> y

X !

O =

L__

(2)

This output signal is subsequently carried along the weighted connections to the

following layer of nodes and the process is repeated until the signal reaches the

output layer. The one or more layers of processing units located between the

input and output layers have no direct connections to the outside world and are

referred to as hidden layers. The output signal can then be interpreted as the

response of the ANN to the given input stimulus.

The ANN can be trained to produce known or desired output responses

for given input stimuli. The ANN is first initialized by assigning random

numbers to the interconnection weights. An input signal is then introduced to

the input layer and the resulting output signal is compared to the desired output

404

signal. The interconnection weights are then adjusted to minimize the error

between the ANN output and the desired output. This process is repeated many

times with many different input/output tuples until a sufficient accuracy for all

data sets has been obtained. The adjustment of the interconnection weights

during training employs a method known as error back-propagation in which

the weight associated with each connection is adjusted by an amount proportional to the strength of the signal in the connection and the total measure of

the error {see Rumelhart et al., 1986). The total error at the output layer is

then reduced by redistributing this error value backwards through the hidden

layers until the input layer is reached. The next input/output tuple is then

applied and the connection weights readjusted to minimize this new error. In

this way, the back-propagation algorithm can be seen to be a form of gradient

descent for finding the minimum value of the multi-dimensional error function.

This procedure is repeated until all training data sets have been applied. The

whole process is then repeated starting from the first data set once more and

continued until the total error for all data sets is sufficiently small and

subsequent adjustments to the weights are inconsequential. The ANN is now

said to have learned a relationship between the input and output training data

sets. The exact form of this relationship cannot be extracted from the ANN but

rather is encapsulated in the stored series of weights and connections between

nodes. The absolute values of the individual weights cannot be interpreted to

have any deeper physical meaning (Minns, 1995).

Although the error back-propagation method does not guarantee convergence to an optimal solution since local minima may exist, it appears in

practice that the back-propagation method leads to solutions in almost every

case (Rumelhart et al., 1994). In fact, Hornik et al. (1989) concluded that

standard multi-layer, feed-forward networks are capable of approximating any

measurable function to any desired degree of accuracy. They further state that

errors in representation appear to arise only from having insufficient hidden

units or the relationships themselves being insufficiently deterministic. For this

reason, a standard, multi-layer, feed-forward ANN using standard backpropagation learning techniques was used in this study.

T H E ANN

Since the purpose of the numerical experiments reported below was only to

evaluate the ability of an ANN to 'learn' the relationship between the pattern

of inputs provided by a sequence of rainfalls and the outputs in the form of the

pattern of flows generated by a hypothetical (but realistic) catchment from those

rainfalls, the precise form of the model used to generate the runoffs from the

rainfalls was of little importance. The ANN is not being applied to identify this

model, and the principal requirement is only that it should produce responses

typical of those encountered in hydrological work.

405

Rainfall data

For the purposes of the numerical experiments, six sequences of storm events

of varying duration, total depth and profile, occurring at irregular intervals,

were required that could be routed through simple conceptual hydrological

models with different degrees of nonlinearity in order to produce the

corresponding streamflow outputs. For simplicity, these rainfalls were treated

as areal averages. Since several storm sequences were required, they were

produced using Monte Carlo methods based on the following assumptions:

1.

2.

3.

4.

standard deviation of 6 h;

storm rainfall depths were lognormally-distributed, with a mean of

25 mm and a standard deviation of 2 mm (these statistics imply that the

distribution of depths had a coefficient of variation of 0.785 and a

skewness coefficient of 2.84);

the shapes of the six storm profiles could be described by simple

polynomial functions, broadly based on those of the UK Flood Studies

Report (Natural Environment Research Council, 1975), and including

early-peaked and late-peaked as well as symmetrical events (a constant

intensity profile was also included as an extreme case); and

the inter-event times were taken as double the previous storm duration

minus one hour.

Initially, three sequences of 14 storm events were generated, the profile shapes

being selected by sampling from a distribution uniform over the range zero to

six. The first was a training sequence with a total duration of 764 h. Five of

the six profiles were represented, with durations having an average of 19.2 h

and a standard deviation of 6.95 h. The average depth was 31.6 mm, with a

standard deviation of 1.9 mm. The other two sequences were employed for

verification purposes. The first of these verification data sets was generated so

that the maximum values all fell within the range defined by the training

sequence. However, if an ANN were to be applied to a real catchment, even

if the training data included all the available measurements, there is always a

small but non-negligible probability that an extreme event beyond the range of

recorded experience may occur in the future. In order to evaluate the performance of an ANN under these circumstances, the second verification

sequence was generated that contained rainfall maxima outside the range of

those upon which the training data was based.

The two verification sequences had a total duration of 794 h, and all

profiles were represented. In the first data set, individual events had an average

duration of 19.8 h and a standard deviation of 4.9 h, and a mean depth of

24.6 mm with a standard deviation of 2.1 mm. The second verification sequence

was constructed by employing the same seed as that for the first, but assuming

that storm depths were lognormally-distributed with a mean of 25 mm and a

standard deviation of 3 mm, which implies a coefficient of variation of 1.53 and

406

a skewness coefficient of 8.2. The actual mean and standard deviation of storm

depths produced was 24.3 mm and 3.3 mm respectively.

Runoff data generation

The conceptual hydrological model that was adopted to produce the flow series

corresponding to the storm sequences was the RORB model (Mein et al.,

191A), the basic element of which is a single nonlinear reservoir for which the

relationship between storage, S, and discharge, Q, is given by:

S = KcKrQm

(3)

and Kr is a relative delay time applicable to individual channel reaches within

the network estimated from the expression:

Kr=fh.

(4)

where Lt is the length of the reach represented by the storage element, Lav is

the average flow distance of sub-catchment inflows within the channel network,

and/is a factor depending upon the type of channel reach, i.e. natural, lined

or unlined.

According to Laurenson & Mein (1988), the exponent in equation (3) is

rarely less than 0.6 or greater than 1.0 when modelling catchment runoff

response to rainfall, and a trial value of 0.8 is recommended on beginning a

modelling exercise. A brief review of the available literature shows that the

values adopted for exponents has ranged from 0.67 (Watt & Kidd, 1975) to 0.8

(Selvalingham et al., 1987), with a predominance of values between 0.7 and

0.8 (Laurenson, 1964; Askew, 1970; Mein et al, 191A; Hong & Mohd Nor,

1988). Three models were therefore adopted to cover the range of possible

catchment behaviour:

(i) m = 0.8 to represent the typical nonlinear relationships encountered in

practice;

(ii) m = 1.0 to represent the extreme linear case; and

(iii) m = 0.5 to represent an extreme nonlinear type of behaviour.

In order to run the RORB software, a hypothetical catchment area and main

channel length had to be assumed in order to establish the value of Kr. The

chosen values of these characteristics were consistent with those of a rural

drainage area of about 30 km2 in southern England. Although these

considerations are not particularly relevant to the learning of patterns, the size

of the catchment broadly determines how many antecedent rainfall depths are

required in developing the ANN and therefore influences the overall size of the

network. For simplicity, no losses were separated and the catchment was considered to have no impervious area. The Kc value was set to 20. The time

407

series of flows so obtained reflected very well the range in response characteristics represented by the three models, with model (iii) showing rapid rises

and recessions in contrast to the slow rises and sustained recessions of model

(ii). For the purposes of illustration, the rainfall hyetographs and flow

hydrographs generated by model (i) are presented in Fig. 3.

I

^ 60

i

12

_, 20

J 0

time

Standardization of data

Prior to presenting the data to the ANN for training, a standardization must be

applied in order to restrict the data range to the interval of zero-to-one,

corresponding to the output limits of the nodes of the network as expressed in

equation (1). The significance of this standardization should not be underestimated. When different standardization factors are applied to the training and

verification sequences, the actual numbers represented by unity in the two data

sets are different. In practice, a trained ANN can only be used in the recall

mode with data that it has 'seen' before; the ANN should not be used for

extrapolation. For example, if the maximum flow that the ANN has learned to

predict is 50 m3 s"1 (corresponding to, say, an output from the node of 1.0),

it is impossible for the ANN ever to predict a flow value exceeding 50 m3 s"1.

The choice of the range for standardization may therefore influence significantly the performance of the ANN. For the experiments used here, the

standardization factors adopted were the maximum generated rainfall depths

and flow ordinates rounded up to the next highest multiple of 10 mm or

10 m3 s"1 respectively. For the training sequence and the first verification

408

However, the flow factors were found to vary with the m value. For the

training data, values of 30, 40 and 50 m3 s"1 were employed for models (ii),

(i) and (iii) respectively. The same values were found applicable to the first

verification sequence (referred to below as normal verification) except that

60 m3 s"1 was adopted for model (iii).

For the second verification sequence (referred to here as extreme

verification because of the wider range of extremes that it contained), the

required standardization factors were 20 mm for the rainfall depths, and 60, 90

and 120 m3 s"1 for models (ii), (i) and (iii) respectively. By using these factors,

a somewhat unrealistic situation was created in which the ANN was trained

with standardized rainfall depths with unity representing 10 mm and standardized flows with unity representing 30, 40 and 50 m3 s"1 for models (ii), (i)

and (iii) respectively, but then applied to verification data in which unity

corresponded to at least double these values. In practice, a trained ANN would

have an associated set of standardization factors, and any new data introduced

to the network in recall mode should be standardized using those factors. In

order to illustrate the implications of this procedure, an extra verification

sequence was developed by applying the factors from the training data to the

second verification sequence. For convenience, the latter is referred to below

as out-of-range verification.

ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORK MODELLING

For all three conceptual models, initial trials were carried out with a 3-layer

ANN. The program employed was a BP-simulator produced by IBP-Pietzsch

GmbH of Ettlingen, Germany. In ANN terminology, the problem of rainfallrunoff modelling can be reduced to the problem of pattern recognition. The

ordinates on the rainfall hyetograph quite clearly represent a pattern that is

unique for each rainfall event. The object of ANN modelling is then to relate

each of these patterns to its corresponding runoff hydrograph ordinate. The

network output therefore consisted of a single flow value. The input to the

ANN consisted of the concurrent and different numbers of antecedent rainfall

depths, the number of the latter defining the input window length. The number

of nodes in the intervening hidden layer was chosen to be roughly half the

number of input nodes. These trials confirmed the experience gained in a

previous study with ANNs applied to rainfall and runoff data (Hall & Minns,

1993) that the use of rainfall inputs alone is insufficient, and that antecedent

flows should be employed as additional inputs. The network configurations

finally chosen involved the use of the concurrent and 14 antecedent rainfall

depths and three antecedent flow ordinates.

In effect, each set of input values and its corresponding output becomes

an event, and the series of events within the storm sequence is presented to the

network in turn. Once the sequence has been exhausted, the network returns

409

to the first event, and the cycle is repeated. This procedure is continued until

the global error of the network, which is based upon the sums of squares of the

differences between observed and computed values, is driven down to an

acceptable level. In the majority of runs, in order to ensure that the global

error had truly reached its minimum, the training was continued until the

number of events had exceeded 106. Since the global error as implemented in

the software package employed was dependent upon the number of nodes in the

network, a more general fitting criterion was sought. As the review by Diskin

& Simon (1977) has shown, a variety of such indices have been applied in

hydrological modelling, but perhaps the form that has been used most widely

is the coefficient of efficiency defined as one minus the quotient of the mean

square error and the variance of the observed flows, i.e.:

i

F =1-

m=l

(5)

m

1

I

- \2

m-l/=iv

'

where qt are the model estimates of the flow ordinates, qi,i = \,2,...,m and

g is the mean of the qv Since the network inputs included the flows at previous

time steps, the ANN could be considered to be modelling the change inflows

rather than their absolute values. In these circumstances, the variance of the

differences in flows, qv - qiA, could be preferred to the variance of the

observed flows in equation (5). However, investigation showed that, for the

data sets employed in this study, the variance of the differences was usually of

the order of 10~2 times the variance of the observed flows, but that the mean

square error could be as high as 10 times the variance of the differences. In

these circumstances, use of the latter would then lead to F values well below

minus one, whereas equation (5) remains between zero and one and was therefore preferred.

Training an ANN can take several hours on a powerful, desk-top personal

computer. However, once the weights have been determined the running time

for the model with a new input data sequence is only a few seconds.

In order to demonstrate the degree of fit obtained, two consecutive events

from the training sequence, including the largest of the 14 generated storms,

have been selected for illustration. Figure 4 shows the performance of the 3layer ANN for each of the three models for these events. In all cases, the

hydrograph from the smaller event is well simulated, but the 3-layer ANN

marginally underestimates the six or seven peak ordinates from the larger

event. In addition, Table 1 summarizes the results from both training and

verifying the 3-layer ANN on the data from each of the three models. In each

case, the ANN was trained on the training sequence and verified on all three

verification sequences as described above.

Table 1 shows that the goodness-of-fit obtained was such that the

majority of the coefficients of efficiency varied only in the third place of

decimals. In both training and verification, the performance of the ANN on the

410

model iii

__ training data

A

3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

time, h

Fig. 4 Training of 3- and 4-layer ANNs on input and output data from

each of three conceptual catchment models: (a) model i; (b) model ii;

and (c) model iii. Two events only have been selected for clarity of

illustration.

411

linear case was marginally the best, although there was little to choose between

that and the two nonlinear cases. Comparison of the three verification cases

underlines the importance of the standardization. Whereas the normal and

extreme verification results are comparable for all three models, those for the

out-of-range case are notably poorer, essentially because the ANN depresses

the extremes in the data sets.

Table 1 Coefficients of efficiency for 3-layer ANNs fitted to rainfall and runoff series

from three different conceptual hydrological models

Model

normal

extreme

out-oi -range

0.9955

0.9963

0.9943

0.7800

ii

0.9973

0.9980

0.9945

0.8383

iii

0.9942

0.9867

0.9807

0.7718

ANNs in verification, two consecutive storms, including the largest of the 14

events, have been extracted. Figure 5 shows the results for normal verification

where once again the ANN marginally underestimated the peak ordinates for

the largest event for models (i) and (ii) using the 3-layer network; for model

(iii), this peak was captured but the recession was somewhat delayed. Extreme

verification (Fig. 6) gave very similar results, although the largest peak

generated by model (iii) was overestimated by the 3-layer ANN. The out-ofrange verification of Fig. 7 amply illustrates the inability of the ANN to

produce an output greater than unity, even though the simulation of those

events that are contained within range, e.g. the first storm with the linear

model in Fig. 7(b), was reasonably reproduced.

With the performance of the 3-layer network being marginally poorer

with the data from the two nonlinear models, the exercise was repeated using

four layers, i.e. two hidden layers, in order to determine whether such a

configuration could adapt better to nonlinear relationships. The results, which

are summarized in Figs 4-7 and Table 2, demonstrate that the performances of

the 4-layer ANNs in normal and extreme verification were better in all but the

extreme nonlinear case see Figs 5(c) and 6(c) where overestimation of the

largest peak occurred. However, in terms of F values (see Table 2), the

performance of the ANN on extreme verification for the model with m = 0.5

was better than that on normal verification. The training of the 4-layer ANN

(Fig. 4) removed completely the underestimation of the largest peak flow and

differences in F values were only observed in the fourth decimal place. Once

again the failure to simulate the extremes in the data sets for the out-of-range

verification resulted in a notably poorer performance. Nevertheless, Table 2 is

sufficient to indicate that, should the performance of the 3-layer network be

412

model ii

normal verification

fl

3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

BSeec'

model iii

normal verification

A

3-layerANN

o 4-IayerANN

ft

f

M

-^

3S8QS#_

SSSaj3a^Q3aQG3Q

output data from each of three conceptual catchment models: (a) model

i; (b) model ii; and (c) model iii. Two events only have been selected

for clarity of illustration.

413

(aP

model I

_ extreme verification

&

3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

0.2

^fiEeageeasaeaao

(b)

model ii

extreme verification

_J .

fl

3-layerANN

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/

L

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L

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i

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0.2 J -

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extreme verification

rn

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3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

0.6

i i

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^ w ^

model iii

#o

x*^

-i

i

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T ^ f e w m w l

20

^ ^ ^ ^

60

time, h

and output data from each of three conceptual catchment models: (a)

model i; (b) model ii; and (c) model iii. Two events only have been

selected for clarity of illustration.

414

(a)

model i

out-of-range /erification

3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

1 \

-A

it

r\ \

(b)

2.5

model ii

out-of-range verification

A

3-iayerANN

o 4-layerANN

0.5

(0

model iti

out-of-range verification

2

3-layerANN

o 4-layerANN

1

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40

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80

input and output data from each of three conceptual catchment models:

(a) model i; (b) model ii; and (c) model iii. Two events only have been

selected for clarity of illustration.

415

deemed unsatisfactory, a 4-layer ANN may well bring about some improvement. This conclusion appears valid over the range of linear and nonlinear

behaviour normally encountered in rainfall-runoff modelling, and confirms the

potential of the approach.

Table 2 Coefficients of efficiency for 4-layer ANNs fitted to rainfall and runoff series

from three different conceptual hydrological models

Model

normal

extreme

out-of-range

0.9998

0.9996

0.9992

0.8135

ii

0.9993

0.9993

0.9971

0.8502

iii

0.9997

0.9836

0.9866

0.7923

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The results of the numerical experiments summarized above, based upon

rainfall and flow data generated by conceptual catchment models varying from

linear to extremely (in hydrological terms) nonlinear cases, have reinforced the

conclusion reached by Hall & Minns (1993) that ANNs are capable of identifying usable relationships between discharges and antecedent rainfalls. When

the fitted ANNs were verified on storm sequences containing the same range

of extremes as the training data (normal verification), the coefficients of

efficiency were comparable to the second decimal place. The performance of

the ANN deteriorated with increasing nonlinearity - but only in the third

decimal place. In terms of individual storm hydrographs, the largest peaks were

not always reproduced closely. This performance can be expected when the

number of 'high' peaks is small compared with that of 'average' peaks; the

ANN assigns relatively more importance to the latter rather than to matching

the former. These findings are sufficient to suggest that extreme caution should

be applied if ANNs were to be employed in studies of extreme floods.

When the ANNs were verified on sequences having larger extremes than

the training data (extreme verification), F values were reduced but not as much

as expected. The larger range of standardization introduced a squashing of the

hydrographs such that the sequence provided a surplus of small (on the scale

of zero-to-one) rises on which the ANNs had some difficulty. In contrast the

larger peaks were simulated rather well and the largest events tended to be

overestimated (Fig. 6).

The out-of-range verification sequences (Fig. 7) serve to emphasize the

care required in choosing standardization factors. Nevertheless, even though the

largest events were significantly in error, those scaled to below unity were

modelled well.

416

the ANN to resolve complex patterns could be improved by introducing an

extra hidden layer was investigated. The results showed the anticipated

improvement, but the increased computational effort involved raises some

doubt as to whether the increase in F values is justified by the additional

learning time. An alternative approach might be to increase the number of

nodes in the hidden layer rather than to add another layer to the network.

Indeed, further tests on the extreme nonlinear data set showed that, by

increasing the number of nodes in the hidden layer from 10 to 15, the training

F value was increased from 0.9942 (Table 1) to 0.9966, about half the

improvement obtained by adding the extra hidden layer (0.9997; Table 2).

However, using the normal verification data, the F value rose from 0.9867

(Table 1) to 0.9917, which is higher than that of 0.9836 (Table 2) achieved

with the 4-layer network.

These results tend to support the contention by Rumelhart et al. (1994)

that minimal networks can offer better generalized performance than more

complex networks. The extreme accuracy of the ANNs for the typical nonlinear

case (m = 0.8), which would appear representative of many rainfall-runoff data

sets, indicates that a 3-layer network should be sufficient for the majority of

real-world applications. Nevertheless, several outstanding problems, such as

those of choosing appropriate standardization factors and input window lengths,

remain to be explored before the approach can be widely applied in practice.

An ANN has therefore demonstrated its ability to relate a runoff ordinate

to the pattern of antecedent rainfall depths. In hydrological modelling terms,

the ANN does not identify a form of model such as the nonlinear reservoir

model of equation (3). However, a form of model is implicit in the ANN

within the distribution of weights. Moreover, this distribution is obtained

automatically with no user intervention. Since the ANN works with total

rainfalls and total flows there is no necessity to apply loss functions and

baseflow separation techniques as in conventional approaches. The ANN is

indeed the ultimate hydrological black-box. However, in the words of an

anonymous reviewer (gratefully acknowledged), the latency of the model

appears to be a virtue, which is even more dangerous since the model is a

prisoner of its training data.

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Received 16 August 1995; accepted 12 January 1996

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