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Jaime G. Cuevas, José L. Arumí, Alejandra Zúñiga-Feest and Christian Little

Abstract

During hydrological research in a Chilean swamp forest, we noted a pattern of higher streamflows close to midday and lower ones close to midnight, the opposite of an evapotranspiration (Et)-driven cycle. We analyzed this diurnal streamflow signal (DSS), which appeared mid-spring (in the growing season). The end of this DSS coincided with a sustained rain event in autumn, which deeply affected stream and meteorological variables. A survey along the stream revealed that the DSS maximum and minimum values appeared 6 and 4 hours earlier, respectively, at headwaters located in the mountain forests/ plantations than at the control point in the swamp forest. Et in the swamp forest was higher in the morning and in the late afternoon, but this process could not influence the groundwater stage. Trees in the mountain headwaters reached their maximum Ets in the early morning and/or close to midday. Our results suggest that the DSS is a wave that moves from forests high in the mountains towards lowland areas, where Et is decoupled from the DSS. This signal delay seems to convert the link between streamflow and Et in an apparent, but spurious positive relationship. It also highlights the role of landscape heterogeneity in shaping hydrological processes.

Open access

Jaime G. Cuevas, José L. Arumí and José Dörner

Abstract

Lagtimes and times of concentration are frequently determined parameters in hydrological design and greatly aid in understanding natural watershed dynamics. In unmonitored catchments, they are usually calculated using empirical or semiempirical equations developed in other studies, without critically considering where those equations were obtained and what basic assumptions they entailed. In this study, we determined the lagtimes (LT) between the middle point of rainfall events and the discharge peaks in a watershed characterized by volcanic soils and swamp forests in southern Chile. Our results were compared with calculations from 24 equations found in the literature. The mean LT for 100 episodes was 20 hours (ranging between 0.6–58.5 hours). Most formulae that only included physiographic predictors severely underestimated the mean LT, while those including the rainfall intensity or stream velocity showed better agreement with the average value. The duration of the rainfall events related significantly and positively with LTs. Thus, we accounted for varying LTs within the same watershed by including the rainfall duration in the equations that showed the best results, consequently improving our predictions. Izzard and velocity methods are recommended, and we suggest that lagtimes and times of concentration must be locally determined with hyetograph-hydrograph analyses, in addition to explicitly considering precipitation patterns.