Publication details for Dr Sim ReaneyReaney, S.M. The use of agent based modelling techniques in hydrology: determining the spatial and temporal origin of channel flow in semi-arid catchments. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 2008;33:317-327.
- Publication type: Journal papers: academic
- ISSN/ISBN: 0197-9337, 1096-9837
- DOI: 10.1002/esp.1540
- Keywords: semi-arid • connectivity • runoff • overland flow • model • CRUM • agent based • catchment
- View online: Online version
- Durham research online: DRO record
Author(s) from Durham
Information on the spatial and temporal origin of runoff entering the channel during a storm event would be valuable in understanding the physical dynamics of catchment hydrology; this knowledge could be used to help design flood defences and diffuse pollution mitigation strategies. The majority of distributed hydrological models give information on the amount of flow leaving a catchment and the pattern of fluxes within the catchment. However, these models do not give any precise information on the origin of runoff within the catchment. The spatial and temporal distribution of runoff sources is particularly intricate in semi-arid catchments, where there are complex interactions between runoff generation, transmission and re-infiltration over short temporal scales.
Agents are software components that are capable of moving through and responding to their local environment. In this application, the agents trace the path taken by water through the catchment. They have information on their local environment and on the basis of this information make decisions on where to move. Within a given model iteration, the agents are able to stay in the current cell, infiltrate into the soil or flow into a neighbouring cell. The information on the current state of the hydrological environment is provided by the environment generator. In this application, the Connectivity of Runoff Model (CRUM) has been used to generate the environment. CRUM is a physically based, distributed, dynamic hydrology model, which considers the hydrological processes relevant for a semi-arid environment at the temporal scale of a single storm event. During the storm event, agents are introduced into the model across the catchment; they trace the flows of water and store information on the flow pathways. Therefore, this modelling approach is capable of giving a novel picture of the temporal and spatial dynamics of flow generation and transmission during a storm event. This is possible by extracting the pathways taken by the agents at different time slices during the storm.
The agent based modelling approach has been applied to two small catchments in South East Spain. The modelling approach showed that the two catchments responded differently to the same rainfall event due to the differences in the runoff generation and overland flow connectivity between the two catchments. The model also showed that the time of travel to the nearest flow concentration is extremely important for determining the connectivity of a point in the landscape with the catchment outflow.