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Title: A comprehensive evaluation of various sensitivity analysis methods: A case study with a hydrological model

Sensitivity analysis (SA) is a commonly used approach for identifying important parameters that dominate model behaviors. We use a newly developed software package, a Problem Solving environment for Uncertainty Analysis and Design Exploration (PSUADE), to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of ten widely used SA methods, including seven qualitative and three quantitative ones. All SA methods are tested using a variety of sampling techniques to screen out the most sensitive (i.e., important) parameters from the insensitive ones. The Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting (SAC-SMA) model, which has thirteen tunable parameters, is used for illustration. The South Branch Potomac River basin near Springfield, West Virginia in the U.S. is chosen as the study area. The key findings from this study are: (1) For qualitative SA methods, Correlation Analysis (CA), Regression Analysis (RA), and Gaussian Process (GP) screening methods are shown to be not effective in this example. Morris One-At-a-Time (MOAT) screening is the most efficient, needing only 280 samples to identify the most important parameters, but it is the least robust method. Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines (MARS), Delta Test (DT) and Sum-Of-Trees (SOT) screening methods need about 400–600 samples for the same purpose. Monte Carlo (MC), Orthogonal Array (OA) and Orthogonal Arraymore » based Latin Hypercube (OALH) are appropriate sampling techniques for them; (2) For quantitative SA methods, at least 2777 samples are needed for Fourier Amplitude Sensitivity Test (FAST) to identity parameter main effect. McKay method needs about 360 samples to evaluate the main effect, more than 1000 samples to assess the two-way interaction effect. OALH and LPτ (LPTAU) sampling techniques are more appropriate for McKay method. For the Sobol' method, the minimum samples needed are 1050 to compute the first-order and total sensitivity indices correctly. These comparisons show that qualitative SA methods are more efficient but less accurate and robust than quantitative ones.« less
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  1. Beijing Normal Univ., Beijing (China)
  2. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  3. Univ. of California, Irvine, CA (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
2010CB428402; 41075075
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Environmental Modelling and Software
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 51; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 1364-8152
Research Org:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
97 MATHEMATICS AND COMPUTING; 58 GEOSCIENCES; uncertainty quantification; sensitivity analysis; parameter screening; space-filling sampling; PSUADE
OSTI Identifier: