Physically-based urban rainfall-runoff models are mostly applied without parameter calibration. Given some preliminary estimates of the uncertainty of the model parameters the associated model output uncertainty can be calculated. Monte-Carlo simulation followed by multi-linear regression is used for this analysis. The calculated model output uncertainty can be compared to the uncertainty estimated by comparing model output and observed data. Based on this comparison systematic or spurious errors can be detected in the observation data, the validity of the model structure can be confirmed, and the most sensitive parameters can be identified. If the calculated model output uncertainty is unacceptably large the most sensitive parameters should be calibrated to reduce the uncertainty. Observation data for which systematic and/or spurious errors have been detected should be discarded from the calibration data. This procedure is referred to as preliminary uncertainty analysis; it is illustrated with an example. The HYSTEM program is applied to predict the runoff volume from an experimental catchment with a total area of 68 ha and an impervious area of 20 ha. Based on the preliminary uncertainty analysis, for 7 of 10 events the measured runoff volume is within the calculated uncertainty range, i.e. less than or equal to the calculated model predictive uncertainty. The remaining 3 events include most likely systematic or spurious errors in the observation data (either in the rainfall or the runoff measurements). These events are then discarded from further analysis. After calibrating the model the predictive uncertainty of the model is estimated.

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