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Variation in curve numbers derived from plot runoff data for New South Wales (Australia)

Cao, Hongxia, Willem Vervoort, R., Dabney, Seth M.
Hydrological processes 2011 v.25 no.24 pp. 3774
hydrologic models, land use, rain, runoff, soil water, storms, variance, New South Wales
The curve number method is a simple one parameter (the curve number) rainfall runoff model. While its theoretical underpinning has been questioned it remains a powerful hydrological tool in the absence of detailed data and is therefore used extensively in hydrological models. This study aims to characterize the variation in maximum retention values (S), which underlie curve numbers, for a range of agricultural treatments across a large spatial area in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The data used for the analysis spans several decades of rainfall runoff observations. A range of different derivation methods result in variation in mean and variance of S. In particular, methods that emphasize the larger storms result in greater S and thus lower runoff. For larger spatial scales, emphasis on larger storms gives more reliable estimates of S. Systematic variation in S arises from variations in treatment, pre‐runoff soil moisture, rainfall depth, and variations in cover. On the basis of the analysis, a table of curve number values for different land uses found in NSW is presented. The resulting distributions of S and curve numbers provide guidance for rainfall runoff modelling studies in the agricultural important areas of NSW.