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Abstract

In ground water flow system models with hydraulic-head observations but without significant imposed or observed flows, extreme parameter correlation generally exists. As a result, hydraulic conductivity and recharge parameters cannot be uniquely estimated. In complicated problems, such correlation can go undetected even by experienced modelers. Extreme parameter correlation can be detected using parameter correlation coefficients, but their utility depends on the presence of sufficient, but not excessive, numerical imprecision of the sensitivities, such as round-off error. This work investigates the information that can be obtained from parameter correlation coefficients in the presence of different levels of numerical imprecision, and compares it to the information provided by an alternative method called the singular value decomposition (SVD). Results suggest that (1) calculated correlation coefficients with absolute values that round to 1.00 were good indicators of extreme parameter correlation, but smaller values were not necessarily good indicators of lack of correlation and resulting unique parameter estimates; (2) the SVD may be more difficult to interpret than parameter correlation coefficients, but it required sensitivities that were one to two significant digits less accurate than those that required using parameter correlation coefficients; and (3) both the SVD and parameter correlation coefficients identified extremely correlated parameters better when the parameters were more equally sensitive. When the statistical measures fail, parameter correlation can be identified only by the tedious process of executing regression using different sets of starting values, or, in some circumstances, through graphs of the objective function.