Catchment transit times and landscape controls: does scale matter?

Markus Hrachowitz, Christopher Soulsby, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Mark Ronald Day Speed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Mean transit times (MTTs) can give useful insights into the internal processes of hydrological systems. However, our understanding of how they vary and scale remains unclear. We used MTT estimates obtained from delta O-18 data from 20, mostly nested, contrasting catchments in North East Scotland, ranging from 1 to 1700 km(2). The estimated MTTs ranged between 270 and 1170 days and were used to test a previously developed multiple linear regression (MLR) model for MTT prediction based on metrics of soil cover, landscape organization and climate. We show that the controls on MTT identified by the MLR model hold with the independent data from these 20 sites and that the MLR can be used to predict MTT in ungauged montane catchments. The dominant controls also remain unchanged over four orders of magnitude of catchment size, suggesting no major change of dominant flow paths and mixing processes at larger scales. This is consistent with the fact that only the variance of MTT, rather than MTT, showed a scaling relationship. MTTs appeared to converge with increasing catchment scale, apparently due to the integration of heterogeneous headwater responses in larger downstream catchments. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-125
Number of pages9
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • mean transit time
  • scaling
  • regionalization
  • catchment
  • classification
  • oxygen-18
  • water residence times
  • mesoscale catchment
  • runoff generation
  • tracers
  • basins
  • conceptualization
  • headwaters
  • Scotland
  • sum


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