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Investigation of hydrometeorological influences on reservoir releases using explainable machine learning methods

by Ming Fan, Lujun Zhang, Siyan Liu, Tiantian Yang, Dan Lu
Publication Type
Journal Name
Frontiers in Water
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1112970 to 18

Long short-term memory (LSTM) networks have demonstrated successful applications in accurately and efficiently predicting reservoir releases from hydrometeorological drivers including reservoir storage, inflow, precipitation, and temperature. However, due to its black-box nature and lack of process-based implementation, we are unsure whether LSTM makes good predictions for the right reasons. In this work, we use an explainable machine learning (ML) method, called SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP), to evaluate the variable importance and variable-wise temporal importance in the LSTM model prediction. In application to 30 reservoirs over the Upper Colorado River Basin, United States, we show that LSTM can accurately predict the reservoir releases with NSE ≥ 0.69 for all the considered reservoirs despite of their diverse storage sizes, functionality, elevations, etc. Additionally, SHAP indicates that storage and inflow are more influential than precipitation and temperature. Moreover, the storage and inflow show a relatively long-term influence on the release up to 7 days and this influence decreases as the lag time increases for most reservoirs. These findings from SHAP are consistent with our physical understanding. However, in a few reservoirs, SHAP gives some temporal importances that are difficult to interpret from a hydrological point of view, probably because of its ignorance of the variable interactions. SHAP is a useful tool for black-box ML model explanations, but the hydrological processes inferred from its results should be interpreted cautiously. More investigations of SHAP and its applications in hydrological modeling is needed and will be pursued in our future study.