Geomorphic signatures on Brutsaert base flow recession analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper addresses the signatures of catchment geomorphology on base flow recession curves. Its relevance relates to the implied predictability of base flow features, which are central to catchment-scale transport processes and to ecohydrological function. Moving from the classical recession curve analysis method, originally applied in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, a large set of recession curves has been analyzed from Swiss streamflow data. For these catchments, digital elevation models have been precisely analyzed and a method aimed at the geomorphic origins of recession curves has been applied to the Swiss data set. The method links river network morphology, epitomized by time-varying distribution of contributing channel sites, with the classic parameterization of recession events. This is done by assimilating two scaling exponents, and b G , with |dQ/dt| Q where Q is at-a-station gauged flow rate and N(l) N(l)G(l)bG where l is the downstream distance from the channel heads receding in time, N(l) is the number of draining channel reaches located at distance l from their heads, and G(l) is the total drainage network length at a distance greater or equal to l, the active drainage network. We find that the method provides good results in catchments where drainage density can be regarded as spatially constant. A correction to the method is proposed which accounts for arbitrary local drainage densities affecting the local drainage inflow per unit channel length. Such corrections properly vanish when the drainage density become spatially constant. Overall, definite geomorphic signatures are recognizable for recession curves, with notable theoretical and practical implications. Key Points signatures of catchment geomorphology on base flow recession curves Analysis of streamflow data and DEM for 27 catchments in Switzerland New conceptual model accounting for uneven drainage density 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

published proceedings

  • Water Resources Research

author list (cited authors)

  • Mutzner, R., Bertuzzo, E., Tarolli, P., Weijs, S. V., Nicotina, L., Ceola, S., ... Rinaldo, A.

citation count

  • 64

complete list of authors

  • Mutzner, Raphaël||Bertuzzo, Enrico||Tarolli, Paolo||Weijs, Steven V||Nicotina, Ludovico||Ceola, Serena||Tomasic, Nevena||Rodriguez‐Iturbe, Ignacio||Parlange, Marc B||Rinaldo, Andrea

publication date

  • September 2013