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Assessing baseflow index vulnerability to variation in dry spell length for a range of catchment and climate properties
- Longobardi, Antonia, Van Loon, Anne Frederike
- Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.16 pp. 2496-2509
- base flow, basins, hydrologic models, maritime climate, prediction, rain, watersheds, Northern European region
- Baseflow index (BFI) prediction in ungauged basins has largely been based on the use of catchment physiographic attributes as dominant variables. In a context where changes in climate are increasingly evident, it is also important to study how the slow component of flow is potentially affected by climate. The aim of this study was to illustrate the impact of climate variability on the baseflow process based on analysis of daily rainfall characteristics and hydrological modelling simulation exercises validated with observed data. Ten catchments were analysed that span southern to northern Europe and range from arid Mediterranean to maritime temperate climate conditions. Additionally, more than 2,000 virtual catchments were modelled that cover an extended gradient of physiographic and climate properties. The relative amounts of baseflow were summarized by the BFI. The catchment slow response delay time (Ks) was assumed to be a measure of catchment effects, and the impact of climate properties was investigated with the dry spell length (d). Well‐drained and poorly‐drained groups were identified based on Ks and d, and their response to an increase or decrease in dry spell length was analysed. Overall, for either well‐ or poorly‐drained groups, an extension in dry spell length appeared to have minor effects on the baseflow compared with a decrease in dry spell length. Under the same dry spell variation, the BFI vulnerability appeared higher for catchments characterized by large initial d values in combination with poorly‐drained systems, but attributing an equal weight to the variations in d both in the case of dry and wet initial conditions, it is in the end concluded that the BFI vulnerability appears higher for systems laying in the transition zone between well‐ and poorly‐drained systems.