Power law distributions of discharge mass and energy in river basins Academic Article uri icon


  • River networks constitute dissipative systems with many spatial degrees of freedom. Previous work by Mandelbrot (1983) and Bak et al. (1987, 1988, 1990) suggests that such systems will follow power law distributions in their mass and energy characteristics. It is shown that this is the case for river networks where the exponent in the distribution, P[X > x] x, is approximately equal to 0.45 and 0.90 for discharge and energy respectively in the case of several networks analyzed in North America when these variables are calculated for each individual link throughout the drainage network. An explanation of the values of is offered based on the fractal structure of rivers and on principles of energy expenditure in river basins. Copyright 1992 by the American Geophysical Union.

published proceedings

  • Water Resources Research

author list (cited authors)

  • RodrguezIturbe, I., IjjszVsquez, E. J., Bras, R. L., & Tarboton, D. G.

citation count

  • 214

complete list of authors

  • Rodríguez‐Iturbe, I||Ijjász‐Vásquez, EJ||Bras, RL||Tarboton, DG

publication date

  • April 1992