Neural network river forecasting through baseflow separation and binary-coded swarm optimization

Riccardo Taormina, Kwok Wing Chau, Bellie Sivakumar

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

169 Citations (Scopus)


The inclusion of expert knowledge in data-driven streamflow modeling is expected to yield more accurate estimates of river quantities. Modular models (MMs) designed to work on different parts of the hydrograph are preferred ways to implement such approach. Previous studies have suggested that better predictions of total streamflow could be obtained via modular Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) trained to perform an implicit baseflow separation. These MMs fit separately the baseflow and excess flow components as produced by a digital filter, and reconstruct the total flow by adding these two signals at the output. The optimization of the filter parameters and ANN architectures is carried out through global search techniques. Despite the favorable premises, the real effectiveness of such MMs has been tested only on a few case studies, and the quality of the baseflow separation they perform has never been thoroughly assessed. In this work, we compare the performance of MM against global models (GMs) for nine different gaging stations in the northern United States. Binary-coded swarm optimization is employed for the identification of filter parameters and model structure, while Extreme Learning Machines, instead of ANN, are used to drastically reduce the large computational times required to perform the experiments. The results show that there is no evidence that MM outperform global GM for predicting the total flow. In addition, the baseflow produced by the MM largely underestimates the actual baseflow component expected for most of the considered gages. This occurs because the values of the filter parameters maximizing overall accuracy do not reflect the geological characteristics of the river basins. The results indeed show that setting the filter parameters according to expert knowledge results in accurate baseflow separation but lower accuracy of total flow predictions, suggesting that these two objectives are intrinsically conflicting rather than compatible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1788-1797
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Baseflow separation
  • Extreme Learning Machine
  • Modular neural network
  • Multi-objective optimization
  • Particle swarm optimization
  • Rainfall-runoff

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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