Multiple mechanisms generate Lorentzian and 1/f α
power spectra in daily stream-flow time series
Power-law scaling is an ubiquitous feature of the power spectrum of streamflow on the daily to monthly timescales where the spectrum is most strongly affected by hydrologic catchment-scale processes. Numerous mechanistic explanations for the emergence of this power-law scaling have been proposed. This study employs empirical spectra obtained for eight river basins in the South Eastern US and synthetic spectra generated from a range of proposed mechanisms to explore these explanations. The empirical analysis suggested that streamflow spectra were characterized by multiple power-law scaling regimes with high-frequency exponents α in the range -1 to -5. In the studied basins, α tended to increase with drainage area. The power-law generating mechanisms analyzed included linear and nonlinear catchment water balance arguments, power-law recession behavior, autonomous and non-autonomous responses of channel hydraulics and the n-fold convolution of linear reservoirs underpinning Dooge or Nash hydrographs. Of these mechanisms, only n-fold convolutions with n= 2 or 3 generated power spectra with features that were consistent with the empirical cases. If the effects of daily streamflow sampling on truncating power spectra were considered, then the trends in α with drainage area were also consistent with this mechanism. Generalizing the linear convolution approach to a network of reservoirs with randomly distributed parameters preserved the features of the power spectrum and maintained consistency with empirical spectra. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)