An unusual kind of diurnal streamflow variation

Open access


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.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Amigo J. Ramírez C. 1998. A bioclimatic classification of Chile: woodland communities in the temperate zone. Plant Ecol. 136 1 9-26.

  • Barnard H. Graham C. Van Verseveld W. Brooks J. Bond B. McDonnell J. 2010. Mechanistic assessment of hillslope transpiration control of diel subsurface flow: a steady-state irrigation approach. Ecohydrology 3 2 133-142.

  • Bond B.J. Jones J.A. Moore G. Phillips N. Post D. McDonnell J.J. 2002. The zone of vegetation influence on baseflow revealed by diurnal patterns of streamflow and vegetation water use in a headwater basin. Hydrol. Process. 16 8 1671-1677.

  • Bren L.J. 1997. Effects of slope vegetation removal on the diurnal variation of a small mountain stream. Water Resour. Res. 33 2 321-331.

  • Brooks J. Barnard H. Coulombe R. McDonnell J. 2010. Ecohydrologic separation of water between trees and streams in Mediterranean climate. Nat. Geosci. 3 2 100‒104.

  • Burt T.P. 1979. Diurnal variations in stream discharge and throughflow during a period of low flow. J. Hydrol. 41 3-4 291-301.

  • Caine N. 1992. Modulation of the diurnal streamflow response by the seasonal snowcover of an alpine basin. J. Hydrol. 137 1 245-260.

  • Carlson Mazur M.L. Wiley M.J. Wilcox D.A. 2014. Estimating evapotranspiration and groundwater flow from water- table fluctuations for a general wetland scenario. Ecohydrology 7 2 378-390. DOI:10.1002/eco.1356.

  • CIREN (Centro de Información de Recursos Naturales) 2001. Estudio Agrológico X Región Tomo I. CIREN Santiago Chile.

  • Constantz J. 1998. Interaction between stream temperature streamflow and groundwater exchanges in alpine streams. Water Resour. Res. 34 7 1609-1615.

  • Cruz C. Calderón J. 2008. Guía climática práctica. [online] Dirección Meteorológica de Chile p.117. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jul. 2016].

  • Cuevas J.G. Calvo M. Little C. Pino M. Dassori P. 2010. Are diurnal fluctuations in streamflow real? J. Hydrol. Hydromech. 58 3 149-162.

  • Cuevas J.G. Huertas J. Leiva C. Paulino L. Dörner J. Arumí J.L. 2014. Nutrient retention in a microwatershed with low levels of anthropogenic pollution. Bosque 35 1 75-88.

  • Dörner J. Dec D. Peng X. Horn R. 2009. Change of shrinkage behavior of an Andisol in southern Chile: Effects of land use and wetting/drying cycles. Soil Till. Res. 106 1 45-53.

  • Dörner J. Dec D. Peng X. Horn R. 2010. Effect of land use change on the dynamic behaviour of structural properties of an Andisol in southern Chile under saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conditions. Geoderma 159 1-2 189-197.

  • Fetene M. Beck E. 2004. Water relations of indigenous versus exotic trees species growing at the same site in a tropical montane forest in southern Ethiopia. Trees 18 4 428-435.

  • Graham C.B. Barnard H.R. Kavanagh K.L. McNamara J.P. 2013. Catchment scale controls the temporal connection of transpiration and diel fluctuations in streamflow. Hydrol. Process. 27 18 2541-2556.

  • Gribovszki Z. Kalicz P. Szilágyi J. Kucsara M. 2008. Riparian zone evapotranspiration from diurnal groundwater level fluctuations. J. Hydrol. 349 1 6-17.

  • Gribovszki Z. Szilágyi J. Kalicz P. 2010. Diurnal fluctuations in shallow groundwater levels and streamflow rates and their interpretation - A review. J. Hydrol. 385 1-4 371-383.

  • Gribovszki Z. Kalicz P. Szilágyi J. 2013. Does the accuracy of fine-scale water level measurements by vented pressure transducers permit for diurnal evapotranspiration estimation? J. Hydrol. 488 166-169.

  • Huertas J. Cuevas J.G. Paulino L. Salazar F. Arumí J.L. Dörner J. 2016. Dairy slurry application to grasslands and groundwater quality in a volcanic soil. J. Soil Sci. Plant Nutrit. 16 3 745-762.

  • Hughes D.A. 2010. Unsaturated zone fracture flow contributions to stream flow: evidence for the process in South Africa and its importance. Hydrol. Process. 24 6 767-774.

  • Jiménez-Castillo M. Lobos-Catalán P. Aguilera-Betti I. Rivera R. 2011. Daily transpiration rates and hydraulic relationships in tree species with different shade-tolerance level in a Chilean temperate forest. Gayana Bot. 68 2 155‒162. (In Spanish.)

  • Jordon P. 1983. Meltwater movement in a deep snowpack. 1. Field observations. Water Resour. Res. 19 4 971-978.

  • McLaughlin D.L. Cohen M.J. 2011. Thermal artifacts in measurements of fine-scale water level variation. Water Resour. Res. 47 W09601.

  • Mohseni O. Stefan H.G. 1999. Stream temperature/air temperature relationship: a physical interpretation. J. Hydrol. 218 3- 4 128-141.

  • Moore G. Jones J. Bond B.J. 2011. How soil moisture mediates the influence of transpiration on streamflow at hourly to interannual scales in a forested catchment. Hydrol. Process. 25 24 3701-3710.

  • Mutzner R. Weijs S.V. Tarolli P. Calaf M. Oldroyd H.J. Parlange M.B. 2015. Controls on the diurnal streamflow cycles in two subbasins of an alpine headwater catchment. Water Resour. Res. 51 5 3403-3418. DOI: 10.1002/2014WR016581.

  • Onset Computer Corporation 2005 2006. HOBO® U20 Water Level Logger (Part # U20-001-01). Doc # 8976-G MAN-U20-001-01. Bourne Massachusetts USA.

  • Puchi P.F. 2013. Influencia de la transpiración sobre la variación del caudal a escala horaria en una microcuenca cubierta con Eucalyptus globulus Labill. Master thesis Faculty of Sciences Universidad Austral de Chile Valdivia Chile. 56p + xiv.

  • Sánchez S. 2016. Comportamiento de la radiación ultravioleta (UV-B) en Chile. Dirección Meteorológica de Chile. Available at: [Accessed 26 Jul. 2016].

  • Schwab M. Klaus J. Pfister L. Weiler M. 2016. Diel discharge cycles explained through viscosity fluctuations in riparian inflow. Water Resour. Res. 52 11 8744-8755. DOI: 10.1002/2016WR018626.

  • Scott D. Prinsloo F. 2008. Longer-term effects of pine and eucalypt plantations on streamflow. Water Resour. Res. 44 7 W00A08.

  • Soil Survey Staff 1999. Soil taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys. 2nd Ed. Natural Resources Conservation Service U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 436 Washington D.C. USA.

  • Solinst 2011. User Guide Levelogger Series Software Version 4. Solinst Canada Ltd. 35 Todd Road Georgetown ON L7G 4R8st Canada.

  • Szilágyi J. Gribovszki Z. Kalicz P. Kucsara M. 2008. On diurnal riparian zone groundwater-level and streamflow fluctuations. J. Hydrol. 349 1-2 1-5.

  • Valett H.C. Dahm C.N. Campana M.E. Morrice J.A. Baker M.A. Fellows C.S. 1997. Hydrologic influences on groundwater-surface water ecotones: heterogeneity in nutrient composition and retention. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 16 1 239‒247.

  • Voltz T.J. 2011. Riparian hydraulic gradient and water table dynamics in two steep headwater streams. Thesis in Ms Civil Engineering. The Pennsylvania State University USA 150 p.

  • Wain A.S. 1994. Diurnal river flow variations and development planning in the tropics. Geogr. J. 160 3 295‒306.

  • Wondzell S.M. Gooseff M.N. McGlynn B.L. 2007. Flow velocity and the hydrologic behavior of streams during baseflow. Geophysical Research Letters 34 L24404. DOI: 10.1029/2007GL031256.

  • WRB (World Reference Base for Soil Resources) 2006. World reference base for soil resources. A framework for international classification correlation and communication. 2nd Ed. FAO World Soil Resources Reports No. 103 Rome Italy. Wroblicky G.J. Campana M.E. Valett H.M. Dahm C.N. 1998. Seasonal variation in surface-subsurface water exchange and lateral hyporheic area of two stream-aquifer systems. Water Resour. Res. 34 3 317‒328.

  • Zúñiga-Feest A. Bustos-Salazar A. Alves F. Martínez V. Smith-Ramírez C. 2017. Physiological and morphological responses to permanent and intermittent waterlogging in seedlings of four evergreen trees of temperate swamp forests. Tree Physiol. 37 6 776-789. DOI: 10.1093/treephys/tpx023.

Journal information
Impact Factor

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 2.023
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 2.048

CiteScore 2018: 2.07

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.713
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 1.228

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 542 387 8
PDF Downloads 225 165 3