Hydrology, Cryosphere & Earth Surface Editors' Highlights

Analysis Reveals Patterns of Streamflow Generation Across USA

A new study transforms a classic conceptual framework into a quantitative classification of streamflow generation patterns.

Source: Water Resources Research


The mechanisms that generate streamflow are controlled by complex interactions between the climate and physiography of a catchment. Streamflow generation is critical for understanding the pathways and processes by which catchments produce stream and river flow. Therefore, identifying the dominant streamflow mechanisms operating in a catchment has important considerations for watershed management. However, there is no simple guidance beyond conceptual frameworks like the classic Dunne diagram to identify the dominant streamflow generation mechanisms for a catchment without a detailed field study.

Wu et al. [2021] developed a data-driven analysis to classify catchments based on characteristics from continuous rainfall and streamflow records and related those characteristics with climatic and physiographic properties to deduce dominant streamflow generation mechanisms of 432 catchments in the US. The analysis extended the conceptual framework of the Dunne diagram to a quantitative synthesis providing regional patterns of dominant streamflow generation mechanisms. The hope is that with a better understanding of potential streamflow generation mechanisms for a catchment, hydrologic model selection, process representation and accuracy will improve.

Citation: Wu, S., Zhao, J., Wang, H., & Sivapalan, M. [2021]. Regional patterns and physical controls of streamflow generation across the conterminous United States. Water Resources Research, 57, e2020WR028086. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020WR028086

—Kevin McGuire, Associate Editor, Water Resources Research

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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