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

  • Sawicz K
  • Wagener T
  • Sivapalan M
 et al. 
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Hydrologic similarity between catchments, de- rived from similarity in how catchments respond to precip- itation input, is the basis for catchment classification, for transferability of information, for generalization of our hy- drologic understanding and also for understanding the poten- tial 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 hydro- logic response characteristics that provide insight into the hydrologic function of catchments. A Bayesian clustering scheme is used to separate the catchments into 9 homoge- neous classes, which enable us to interpret hydrologic sim- ilarity with respect to similarity in climatic and landscape attributes across this region. We finally derive several hy- potheses regarding controls on individual signatures from the analysis performed here.

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