The ability of a hydrological model to reproduce observed streamflow can be represented by a large variety of performance measures. Although these metrics may suit different purposes, it is unclear which of them is most appropriate for a given application. Our objective is to investigate various performance measures to assess model structures as tools for catchment classification. For this purpose, 12 model structures are generated using the SUPERFLEX modelling framework, which are then applied to 53 meso-scale basins in the Rhineland-Palatinate (Germany). Statistical and hydrological performance measures are compared with signature indices derived from the flow duration curve and combined into a new performance measure, the standardized signature index sum (SIS). The performance measures are evaluated in their ability to distinguish the relative merits of various model alternatives. In many cases, classical and hydrological performance measures assign similar values to different hydrographs. These measures, therefore, are not well suited for model comparison. The proposed SIS is more effective in revealing differences between model results. It allows for a more distinctive identification of a best performing model for individual basins. A best performing model structure obtained through the SIS can be used as basin classifier.

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