Space, time, and the third dimension (model error)


  • Marshall E. Moss


The space-time tradeoff of hydrologic data collection (the ability to substitute spatial coverage for temporal extension of records or vice versa) is controlled jointly by the statistical properties of the phenomena that are being measured and by the model that is used to meld the information sources. The control exerted on the space-time tradeoff by the model and its accompanying errors has seldom been studied explicitly. The technique, known as Network Analyses for Regional Information (NARI), permits such a study of the regional regression model that is used to relate streamflow parameters to the physical and climatic characteristics of the drainage basin.

The NARI technique shows that model improvement is a viable and sometimes necessary means of improving regional data collection systems. Model improvement provides an immediate increase in the accuracy of regional parameter estimation and also increases the information potential of future data collection. Model improvement, which can only be measured in a statistical sense, cannot be quantitatively estimated prior to its achievement; thus an attempt to upgrade a particular model entails a certain degree of risk on the part of the hydrologist.