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Title: Links Between Flood Frequency and Annual Water Balance Behaviors: A Basis for Similarity and Regionalization

This paper presents the results of a data based comparative study of several hundred catchments across continental United States belonging to the MOPEX dataset, which systematically explored the connection between the flood frequency curve and measures of mean annual water balance. Two different measures of mean annual water balance are used: (i) a climatic aridity index, AI, which is a measure of the competition between water and energy availability at the annual scale; and, (ii) baseflow index, BFI, the ratio of slow runoff to total runoff also at the annual time scale, reflecting the role of geology, soils, topography and vegetation. The data analyses showed that the aridity index, AI, has a first order control on both the mean and Cv of annual maximum floods. While mean annual flood decreases with increasing aridity, Cv increases with increasing aridity. BFI appeared to be a second order control on the magnitude and shape of the flood frequency curve. Higher BFI, meaning more subsurface flow and less surface flow leads to a decrease of mean annual flood whereas lower BFI leads to accumulation of soil moisture and increased flood magnitudes that arise from many events acting together. The results presented in this papermore » provide innovative means to delineate homogeneous regions within which the flood frequency curves can be assumed to be functionally similar. At another level, understanding the connection between annual water balance and flood frequency will be another building block towards developing comprehensive understanding of catchment runoff behavior in a holistic way.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Water Resources Research, 50(2):937–953
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
flood frequency; annual water balance; aridity index; baseflow index