Catchment classification: empirical analysis of hydrologic similarity based on catchment function in the eastern USA

K. Sawicz, T. Wagener, M. Sivapalan, P. A. Troch, G. Carrillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

250 Citations (Scopus)
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Hydrologic similarity between catchments, derived from similarity in how catchments respond to precipitation input, is the basis for catchment classification, for transferability of information, for generalization of our hydrologic understanding and also for understanding the potential impacts of environmental change. An important question in this context is, how far can widely available hydrologic information (precipitation-temperature-streamflow data and generally available physical descriptors) be used to create a first order grouping of hydrologically similar catchments? We utilize a heterogeneous dataset of 280 catchments located in the Eastern US to understand hydrologic similarity in a 6-dimensional signature space across a region with strong environmental gradients. Signatures are defined as hydrologic response characteristics that provide insight into the hydrologic function of catchments. A Bayesian clustering scheme is used to separate the catchments into 9 homogeneous classes, which enable us to interpret hydrologic similarity with respect to similarity in climatic and landscape attributes across this region. We finally derive several hypotheses regarding controls on individual signatures from the analysis performed here.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2895-2911
Number of pages17
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number9
Early online date15 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011

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