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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 4
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1323–1338, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 1323–1338, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 29 Apr 2011

Research article | 29 Apr 2011

Effect of high-resolution spatial soil moisture variability on simulated runoff response using a distributed hydrologic model

J. Minet1, E. Laloy2, S. Lambot1,3, and M. Vanclooster1 J. Minet et al.
  • 1Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 2 BP 2, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-2175, USA
  • 3Agrosphere (IBG-3), Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, 52425 Jülich, Germany

Abstract. The importance of spatial variability of antecedent soil moisture conditions on runoff response is widely acknowledged in hillslope hydrology. Using a distributed hydrologic model, this paper aims at investigating the effects of soil moisture spatial variability on runoff in various field conditions and at finding the structure of the soil moisture pattern that approaches the measured soil moisture pattern in terms of field scale runoff. High spatial resolution soil moisture was surveyed in ten different field campaigns using a proximal ground penetrating radar (GPR) mounted on a mobile platform. Based on these soil moisture measurements, seven scenarios of spatial structures of antecedent soil moisture were used and linked with a field scale distributed hydrological model to simulate field scale runoff. Accounting for spatial variability of soil moisture resulted in general in higher predicted field scale runoff as compared to the case where soil moisture was kept constant. The ranges of possible hydrographs were delineated by extreme scenarios where soil moisture was directly and inversely modelled according to the topographic wetness index (TWI). These behaviours could be explained by the sizes and locations of runoff contributing areas, knowing that runoff was generated by infiltration excess over a certain soil moisture threshold. The most efficient scenario for modelling the within field spatial structure of soil moisture appeared to be when soil moisture is directly arranged according to the TWI, especially when measured soil moisture and TWI were correlated. The novelty of this work is to benefit from a large set of high-resolution soil moisture measurements allowing to model effectively the within field distribution of soil moisture and its impact on the field scale hydrograph. These observations contributed to the current knowledge of the impact of antecedent soil moisture spatial variability on field scale runoff.

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