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Parametric study of a physically-based, plot-scale hillslope hydrological model through virtual experiments

Sarkar, Rupak, Dutta, Subashisa
Hydrological sciences journal 2015 v.60 no.3 pp. 448-467
algorithms, field experimentation, hydrograph, infiltration rate, macropores, models, overland flow, preferential flow, rain intensity, subsurface flow, surface storage, India
A physically-based hillslope hydrological model with shallow overland flow and rapid subsurface stormflow components was developed and calibrated using field experiments conducted on a preferential path nested hillslope in northeast India. Virtual experiments were carried out to perform sensitivity analysis of the model using the automated parameter estimation (PEST) algorithm. Different physical parameters of the model were varied to study the resulting effects on overland flow and subsurface stormflow responses from the theoretical hillslopes. It was observed that topographical shapes had significant effects on overland flow hydrographs. The slope profiles, surface storage, relief, rainfall intensity and infiltration rates primarily controlled the overland flow response of the hillslopes. Prompt subsurface stormflow responses were mainly dominated by lateral preferential flow, as soil matrix flow rates were very slow. Rainfall intensity and soil macropore structures were the most influential parameters on subsurface stormflow. The number of connected soil macropores was a more sensitive parameter than the size of macropores. In hillslopes with highly active vertical and lateral preferential pathways, saturation excess overland flow was not evident. However, saturation excess overland flow was generated if the lateral macropores were disconnected. Under such conditions, rainfall intensity, duration and preferential flow rate governed the process of saturation excess overland flow generation from hillslopes.