The spatial and temporal evolution of contributing areas


Journal Article

© 2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Predicting runoff source areas and how they change through time is a challenge in hydrology. Topographically induced lateral water redistribution and water removal through evapotranspiration lead to spatially and temporally variable patterns of watershed water storage. These dynamic storage patterns combined with threshold mediation of saturated subsurface throughflow lead to runoff source areas that are dynamic through time. To investigate these processes and their manifestation in watershed runoff, we developed and applied a parsimonious but spatially distributed model (WECOH - Watershed ECOHydrology). Evapotranspiration was measured via an eddy-covariance tower located within the catchment and disaggregated as a function of vegetation structure. This modeling approach reproduced the stream hydrograph well and was internally consistent with observed watershed runoff patterns and behavior. We further examined the spatial patterns of water storage and their evolution through time by building on past research focused on landscape hydrologic connectivity. The percentage of landscape area connected to the stream network ranged from less than 1% during the fall and winter base flow period to 71% during snowmelt. Over the course of the 2 year study period, 90% of the watershed areas were connected to the stream network for at least 1 day, leaving 10% of area that never became connected. Runoff source areas during the event shifted from riparian dominated runoff to areas at greater distances from the stream network when hillslopes became connected. Our modeling approach elucidates and enables quantification and prediction of watershed active areas and those active areas connected to the stream network through time.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Nippgen, F; McGlynn, BL; Emanuel, RE

Published Date

  • June 1, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 51 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 4550 - 4573

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1944-7973

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0043-1397

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/2014WR016719

Citation Source

  • Scopus