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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Reaney, S.M., Bracken, L.J. & Kirkby, M.J. Use of the connectivity of runoff model (CRUM) to investigate the influence of storm characteristics on runoff generation and connectivity in semi-arid areas. Hydrological Processes. 2007;21:894-906.

Author(s) from Durham


Much attention has been given to the surface controls on the generation and transmission of runoff in semi-arid areas. However, the surface controls form only one part of the system; hence, it is important to consider the effect that the characteristics of the storm event have on the generation of runoff and the transmission of flow across the slope. The impact of storm characteristics has been investigated using the Connectivity of Runoff Model (CRUM). This is a distributed, dynamic hydrology model that considers the hydrological processes relevant to semi-arid environments at the temporal scale of a single storm event. The key storm characteristics that have been investigated are the storm duration, rainfall intensity, rainfall variability and temporal structure. This has been achieved through the use of a series of defined storm hydrographs and stochastic rainfall. Results show that the temporal fragmentation of high-intensity rainfall is important for determining the travel distances of overland flow and, hence, the amount of runoff that leaves the slope as discharge. If the high-intensity rainfall is fragmented, then the runoff infiltrates a short distance downslope. Longer periods of high-intensity rainfall allow the runoff to travel further and, hence, become discharge. Therefore, storms with similar amounts of high-intensity rainfall can produce very different amounts of discharge depending on the storm characteristics. The response of the hydrological system to changes in the rainfall characteristics can be explained using a four-stage model of the runoff generation process. These stages are: (1) all water infiltrating, (2) the surface depression store filling or emptying without runoff occurring, (3) the generation and transmission of runoff and (4) the transmission of runoff without new runoff being generated. The storm event will move the system between the four stages and the nature of the rainfall required to move between the stages is determined by the surface characteristics. This research shows the importance of the variable-intensity rainfall when modelling semi-arid runoff generation. The amount of discharge may be greater or less than the amount that would have been produced if constant rainfall intensity is used in the model.

Department of Geography