Comparison of threshold hydrologic response across northern catchments

Genevieve Ali*, Doerthe Tetzlaff, Jeffrey J. Mcdonnell, Chris Soulsby, Sean Carey, Hjalmar Laudon, Kevin Mcguire, Jim Buttle, Jan Seibert, Jamie Shanley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Nine mid-latitude to high-latitude headwater catchments - part of the Northern Watershed Ecosystem Response to Climate Change (North-Watch) programme - were used to analyze threshold response to rainfall and snowmelt-driven events and link the different responses to the catchment characteristics of the nine sites. The North-Watch data include daily time-series of various lengths of multiple variables such as air temperature, precipitation and discharge. Rainfall and meltwater inputs were differentiated using a degree-day snowmelt approach. Distinct hydrological events were identified, and precipitation-runoff response curves were visually assessed. Results showed that eight of nine catchments showed runoff initiation thresholds and effective precipitation input thresholds. For rainfall-triggered events, catchment hydroclimatic and physical characteristics (e.g. mean annual air temperature, median flow path distance to the stream, median sub-catchment area) were strong predictors of threshold strength. For snowmelt-driven events, however, thresholds and the factors controlling precipitation-runoff response were difficult to identify. The variability in catchments responses to snowmelt was not fully explained by runoff initiation thresholds and input magnitude thresholds. The quantification of input intensity thresholds (e.g. snow melting and permafrost thawing rates) is likely required for an adequate characterization of nonlinear spring runoff generation in such northern environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3575-3591
Number of pages17
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number16
Early online date10 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Funded by
Leverhulme Trust. Grant Number: F/00 152/AG


  • Dynamic storage deficit
  • North-Watch programme
  • Quickflow
  • Rainfall
  • Snowmelt
  • Thresholds


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