Systematic visual analysis of groundwater hydrographs: potential benefits and challenges
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2022
Visual analysis of time series in hydrology is frequently seen as a crucial step to becoming acquainted with the nature of the data, as well as detecting unexpected errors, biases, etc. Human eyes, in particular those of a trained expert, are well suited to recognize irregularities and distinct patterns. However, there are limits as to what the eye can resolve and process; moreover, visual analysis is by definition subjective and has low reproducibility. Visual inspection is frequently mentioned in publications, but rarely described in detail, even though it may have significantly affected decisions made in the process of performing the underlying study. This paper presents a visual analysis of groundwater hydrographs that has been performed in relation to attempts to classify groundwater time series as part of developing a new concept for prediction in data-scarce groundwater systems. Within this concept, determining the similarity of groundwater hydrographs is essential. As standard approaches for similarity analysis of groundwater hydrographs do not yet exist, different approaches were developed and tested. This provided the opportunity to carry out a comparison between visual analysis and formal, automated classification approaches. The presented visual classification was carried out on two sets of time series from central Europe and Fennoscandia. It is explained why and where visual classification can be beneficial but also where the limitations and challenges associated with the approach lie. It is concluded that systematic visual analysis of time series in hydrology, despite its subjectivity and low reproducibility, should receive much more attention.