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Journal Article

A conceptual stochastic rainfall-runoff model of an order-one catchment under a stationary precipitation regime


Vallejo Bernal,  Sara Maria
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Ramírez,  Jorge M.
External Organizations;

Poveda,  Germán
External Organizations;

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Vallejo Bernal, S. M., Ramírez, J. M., Poveda, G. (2021): A conceptual stochastic rainfall-runoff model of an order-one catchment under a stationary precipitation regime. - Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment, 35, 11, 2187-2212.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_26772
We derive and solve a linear stochastic model for the evolution of discharge and runoff in an order-one watershed. The system is forced by a statistically stationary compound Poisson process of instantaneous rainfall events. The relevant time scales are hourly or larger, and for large times, we show that the discharge approaches a limiting invariant distribution. Hence any of its properties are with regard to a rainfall-runoff system in hydrological equilibrium. We give an explicit formula for the Laplace transform of the invariant density of discharge in terms of the catchment area, the residence times of water in the channel and the hillslopes, and the mean frequency and the probability distribution of rainfall inputs. As a study case, we consider a watershed under a stationary rainfall regime in the tropical Andes of Colombia and test the probability distribution predicted by the model against the corresponding seasonal statistics. A mathematical analysis of the invariant distribution is performed yielding formulas for the invariant moments of discharge in terms of those of the rainfall. The asymptotic behavior of the probabilities of extreme discharge events is explicitly derived for heavy-tailed and light-tailed families of distributions of rainfall inputs. The scaling structure of discharge is asymptotically characterized in terms of the parameters of the model and under the assumption of wide sense scaling for the precipitation amounts and the inverse of the residence time in the channel. Our results give insights into the conversion of uncertainty inherent to the rainfall-runoff dynamics and the roles played by different geophysical variables, with the ratio between the mean frequency of rainfall events to the residence time along the hillslopes largely determining the qualitative properties of the distribution of discharge.