Uncertainty estimation of a complex water quality model: The influence of Box–Cox transformation on Bayesian approaches and comparison with a non-Bayesian method

Giorgio Mannina, Gabriele Freni

Risultato della ricerca: Articlepeer review

17 Citazioni (Scopus)


In urban drainage modelling, uncertainty analysis is of undoubted necessity. However, uncertainty analysis in urban water-quality modelling is still in its infancy and only few studies have been carried out. Therefore, several methodological aspects still need to be experienced and clarified especially regarding water quality modelling. The use of the Bayesian approach for uncertainty analysis has been stimulated by its rigorous theoretical framework and by the possibility of evaluating the impact of new knowledge on the modelling predictions. Nevertheless, the Bayesian approach relies on some restrictive hypotheses that are not present in less formal methods like the Generalised Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation (GLUE). One crucial point in the application of Bayesian method is the formulation of a likelihood function that is conditioned by the hypotheses made regarding model residuals. Statistical transformations, such as the use of Box–Cox equation, are generally used to ensure the homoscedasticity of residuals. However, this practice may affect the reliability of the analysis leading to a wrong uncertainty estimation. The present paper aims to explore the influence of the Box–Cox equation for environmental water quality models. To this end, five cases were considered one of which was the “real” residuals distributions (i.e. drawn from available data). The analysis was applied to the Nocella experimental catchment (Italy) which is an agricultural and semi-urbanised basin where two sewer systems, two wastewater treatment plants and a river reach were monitored during both dry and wet weather periods. The results show that the uncertainty estimation is greatly affected by residual transformation and a wrong assumption may also affect the evaluation of model uncertainty. The use of less formal methods always provide an overestimation of modelling uncertainty with respect to Bayesian method but such effect is reduced if a wrong assumption is made regarding the residuals distribution. If residuals are not normally distributed, the uncertainty is over-estimated if Box–Cox transformation is not applied or non-calibrated parameter is used.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)31-41
Numero di pagine11
RivistaPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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