AUTHORS: K.L. Miller, S.J. Berg, J.H. Davison, E.A. Sudicky, and P.A. Forsyth
Although high performance computers and advanced numerical methods have made the application of fully-integrated surface and subsurface flow and transport models such as HydroGeoSphere common place, run times for large complex basin models can still be on the order of days to weeks, thus, limiting the usefulness of traditional workhorse algorithms for uncertainty quantification (UQ) such as Latin Hypercube simulation (LHS) or Monte Carlo simulation (MCS), which generally require thousands of simulations to achieve an acceptable level of accuracy. In this paper we investigate non-intrusive polynomial chaos for uncertainty quantification, which in contrast to random sampling methods (e.g., LHS and MCS), represents a model response of interest as a weighted sum of polynomials over the random inputs. Once a chaos expansion has been constructed, approximating the mean, covariance, probability density function, cumulative distribution function, and other common statistics as well as local and global sensitivity measures is straightforward and computationally inexpensive, thus making PCE an attractive UQ method for hydrologic models with long run times. Our polynomial chaos implementation was validated through comparison with analytical solutions as well as solutions obtained via LHS for simple numerical problems. It was then used to quantify parametric uncertainty in a series of numerical problems with increasing complexity, including a two-dimensional fully-saturated, steady flow and transient transport problem with six uncertain parameters and one quantity of interest; a one-dimensional variably-saturated column test involving transient flow and transport, four uncertain parameters, and two quantities of interest at 101 spatial locations and five different times each (1010 total); and a three-dimensional fully-integrated surface and subsurface flow and transport problem for a small test catchment involving seven uncertain parameters and three quantities of interest at 241 different times each. Numerical experiments show that polynomial chaos is an effective and robust method for quantifying uncertainty in fully-integrated hydrologic simulations, which provides a rich set of features and is computationally efficient. Our approach has the potential for significant speedup over existing sampling based methods when the number of uncertain model parameters is modest ( ≤ 20). To our knowledge, this is the first implementation of the algorithm in a comprehensive, fully-integrated, physically-based three-dimensional hydrosystem model.