American Society of Civil Engineers

Investigation of Internal Functioning of the Radial-Basis-Function Neural Network River Flow Forecasting Models

by D. Achela K. Fernando, (Lectuer, School of the Built Envir., Unitec New Zealand, Private Bag 92025, Auckland, New Zealand. E-mail: and Asaad Y. Shamseldin, (Sr. Lect., Dept. of Civ. and Envir.Engrg., Univ. of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 14, No. 3, March 2009, pp. 286-292, (doi:

     Access full text
     Purchase Subscription
     Permissions for Reuse  

Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: This paper deals with the challenging problem of hydrological interpretation of the internal functioning of artificial neural networks (ANNs) by extracting knowledge from their solutions. The neural network used in this study is based on the structure of the radial-basis-function neural network (RBFNN), which is considered as an alternative to the multilayer perceptron for solving complex modeling problems. This network consists of input, hidden, and output layers. The network is trained using the daily data of two catchments having different characteristics and from two different regions in the world. The present day and antecedent observed discharges are used as inputs to the network to forecast the flow one day ahead. A range of quantitative and qualitative techniques are used for hydrological interpretation of the internal functioning by examining the responses of the hidden layer nodes. The results of the study show that a single hidden layered RBFNN is an effective tool to forecast the daily flows and that the activation of the hidden layer nodes are far from arbitrary, but appear to represent flow components of the predicted hydrograph. The results of the study confirm that the three nodes in the hidden layer of this model effectively divide the input data space in such a way that the contribution from each node dominates in one of the flow domains — low, medium, or high — and form, in a crude manner, the base flow, interflow and surface runoff components of the hydrograph.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Neural networks
River flow