'Universal' recession curves and their geomorphological interpretation
The study of recession flows offers fundamental insights into basin hydrological processes and, in particular, into the collective behavior of the governing dominant subsurface flows and properties. We use here an existing geomorphological interpretation of recession dynamics, which links the exponent in the classic recession curve -dQ / dt = kQα to the geometric properties of the time-varying drainage network to study the general properties of recession curves across a wide variety of river basins. In particular, we show how the parameter k depends on the initial soil moisture state of the basin and can be made to explicitly depend on an index discharge, representative of initial sub-subsurface storage. Through this framework we obtain a non-dimensional, event-independent, recession curve. We subsequently quantify the variability of k across different basins on the basis of their geometry, and, by rescaling, collapse curves from different events and basins to obtain a generalized, or 'universal', recession curve. Finally, we analyze the resulting normalized recession curves and explain their universal characteristics, lending further support to the notion that the statistical properties of observed recession curves bear the signature of the geomorphological structure of the networks producing them. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
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