Topography significantly influencing low flows in snow-dominated watersheds

Li, Qiang; Wei, Xiaohua; Yang, Xin; Giles-Hansen, Krysta; Zhang, Mingfang; Liu, Wenfei

Watershed topography plays an important role in determining the spatial heterogeneity of ecological, geomorphological, and hydrological processes. Few studies have quantified the role of topography in various flow variables. In this study, 28 watersheds with snow-dominated hydrological regimes were selected with daily flow records from 1989 to 1996. These watersheds are located in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, Canada, and range in size from 2.6 to 1780 kminline-formula2. For each watershed, 22 topographic indices (TIs) were derived, including those commonly used in hydrology and other environmental fields. Flow variables include annual mean flow (inline-formulaQmean), inline-formulaQ10 %, inline-formulaQ25 %, inline-formulaQ50 %, inline-formulaQ75 %, inline-formulaQ90 %, and annual minimum flow (inline-formulaQmin), where inline-formulaQx% is defined as the daily flow that occurred each year at a given percentage (inline-formulax). Factor analysis (FA) was first adopted to exclude some redundant or repetitive TIs. Then, multiple linear regression models were employed to quantify the relative contributions of TIs to each flow variable in each year. Our results show that topography plays a more important role in low flows (flow magnitudes inline-formula≤inline-formulaQ75 %) than high flows. However, the effects of TIs on different flow magnitudes are not consistent. Our analysis also determined five significant TIs: perimeter, slope length factor, surface area, openness, and terrain characterization index. These can be used to compare watersheds when low flow assessments are conducted, specifically in snow-dominated regions with the watershed size less than several thousand square kilometres.

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Li, Qiang / Wei, Xiaohua / Yang, Xin / et al: Topography significantly influencing low flows in snow-dominated watersheds. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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