Heavy winter rainfall produces double-peak hydrographs at the Slapton Wood catchment, Devon, UK. The first peak is saturation-excess overland flow in the hillslope hollows and the second (i.e. the delayed peak) is subsurface stormflow. The physically-based spatially-distributed model SHETRAN is used to try to improve the understanding of the processes that cause the double peaks. A three-stage (multi-scale) approach to calibration is used: (1) water balance validation for vertical one-dimensional flow at arable, grassland and woodland plots; (2) two-dimensional flow for cross-sections cutting across the stream valley; and (3) three-dimensional flow in the full catchment. The main data are for rainfall, stream discharge, evaporation, soil water potential and phreatic surface level. At each scale there was successful comparison with measured responses, using as far as possible parameter values from measurements. There was some calibration but all calibrated values at one scale were used at a larger scale. A large proportion of the subsurface runoff enters the stream from three dry valleys (hillslope hollows), and previous studies have suggested convergence of the water in the three large hollows as being the major mechanism for the production of the delayed peaks. The SHETRAN modelling suggests that the hillslopes that drain directly into the stream are also involved in producing the delayed discharges. The model shows how in the summer most of the catchment is hydraulically disconnected from the stream. In the autumn the catchment eventually ‘wets up’ and shallow subsurface flows are produced, with water deflected laterally along the soil-bedrock interface producing the delayed peak in the stream hydrograph. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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