Catchment classification based on characterisation of streamflow and precipitation time series
The formulation of objective procedures for the delineation of homogeneous groups of catchments is a fundamental issue in both operational and research hydrology. For assessing catchment similarity, a variety of hydrological information may be considered; in this paper, gauged sites are characterised by a set of streamflow signatures that include a representation, albeit simplified, of the properties of fine time-scale flow series and in particular of the dynamic components of the data, in order to keep into account the sequential order and the stochastic nature of the streamflow process.
The streamflow signatures are provided in input to a clustering algorithm based on unsupervised SOM neural networks, obtaining groups of catchments with a clear hydrological distinctiveness, as highlighted by the identification of the main patterns of the input variables in the different classes and the interpretation of their interrelations. In addition, even if no geographical, morphological nor climatological information is provided in input to the SOM network, the clusters exhibit an overall consistency as far as location, altitude and precipitation regime are concerned.
In order to assign ungauged sites to such groups, the catchments are represented through a parsimonious set of morphometric and pluviometric variables, including also indexes that attempt to synthesise the variability and correlation properties of the precipitation time series, thus providing information on the type of weather forcing that is specific to each basin. Following a principal components analysis, needed for synthesizing and better understanding the morpho-pluviometric catchment properties, a discriminant analysis finally assigns the ungauged catchments, through a leave-one-out cross validation, to one of the above identified hydrologic response classes. The approach delivers a quite satisfactory identification of the membership of ungauged catchments to the streamflow-based classes, since the comparison of the two cluster sets shows a misclassification rate of around 20%.
Overall results indicate that the inclusion of information on the properties of the fine time-scale streamflow and rainfall time series may be a promising way for better representing the hydrologic and climatic character of the study catchments.