Large sample hydrology in NZ: Spatial organisation in process diagnostics

Hilary K. McMillan, Ross Woods, Martyn P. Clark

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstract


A key question in hydrology is how to predict the dominant runoff generation processes in any given catchment. This knowledge is vital for a range of applications in forecasting hydrological response and related processes such as nutrient and sediment transport. A step towards this goal is to map dominant processes in locations where data is available. In this presentation, we use data from 900 flow gauging stations and 680 rain gauges in New Zealand, to assess hydrological processes. These catchments range in character from rolling pasture, to alluvial plains, to temperate rainforest, to volcanic areas. By taking advantage of so many flow regimes, we harness the benefits of large-sample and comparative hydrology to study patterns and spatial organisation in runoff processes, and their relationship to physical catchment characteristics.

The approach we use to assess hydrological processes is based on the concept of diagnostic signatures. Diagnostic signatures in hydrology are targeted analyses of measured data which allow us to investigate specific aspects of catchment response. We apply signatures which target the water balance, the flood response and the recession behaviour. We explore the organisation, similarity and diversity in hydrological processes across the New Zealand landscape, and how these patterns change with scale. We discuss our findings in the context of the strong hydro-climatic gradients in New Zealand, and consider the implications for hydrological model building on a national scale.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventFall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 9 Dec 201313 Dec 2013


ConferenceFall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco

Structured keywords

  • Water and Environmental Engineering


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