Saturated area dynamics and streamflow generation from coupled surface-subsurface simulations and field observations
A distributed physically-based model describing coupled surface-subsurface flows is applied to an instrumented catchment to investigate the links between runoff generation processes and the dynamics of saturated areas. The spatial characterization of the system is obtained through geophysical measurements and in situ observations. The model is able to reproduce the dynamics of the system through the calibration of only few parameters with a clear physical interpretation, providing a solid basis for our numerical investigations. Such investigations demonstrate the important control exerted by surface topography on the time evolution of saturated area patterns, mainly mediated by topographic curvature, that dictates both the dominant streamflow generation process at the local scale and the connection-disconnection dynamics of saturated areas. The relation between hillslope water storage and streamflow, Q= f(V), is shown to be highly hysteretical and dependent on the mean saturation of the catchment: higher degrees of saturation tend to yield one-to-one relationships between streamflow and water storage. On the contrary, streamflow-water storage relations are importantly affected by the specific configuration of saturated areas connected to the outlet when the system is far from complete saturation. This observation contradicts common assumptions of a one-to-one relationship Q= f(V) often used to justify widely observed power-law Q vs. d. Q/d. t recession curves. Furthermore, even when Q= f(V) becomes unique at high degrees of saturation, no power-law form emerged in our runs, speculatively because of the small size of the catchment formed by a single incision and the corresponding hillslope. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Weill, S; Altissimo, M; Cassiani, G; Deiana, R; Marani, M; Putti, M
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