Role of spatial variability of rainfall intensity: improvement of Eagleson's classical model to explain the relationship between the coefficient of variation of annual maximum discharge and catchment size

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Abstract

Eagleson's classical regional flood frequency model is investigated. Our intention was not to improve the model, but to reveal previously unidentified important and dominant hydrological processes in it. The change of the coefficient of variation (CV) of annual maximum discharge with catchment area can be viewed as representing the spatial variance of floods in a homogeneous region. Several researchers have reported that the CV decreases as the catchment area increases, at least for large areas. On the other hand, Eagleson's classical studies have been known as pioneer efforts that combine the concept of similarity analysis (scaling) with the derived flood frequency approach. As we have shown, the classical model can reproduce the empirical relationship between the mean annual maximum discharge and catchment area, but it cannot reproduce the empirical decreasing CV-catchment area curve. Therefore, we postulate that previously unidentified hydrological processes would be revealed if the classical model were improved to reproduce the decreasing of CV with catchment area. First, we attempted to improve the classical model by introducing a channel network, but this was ineffective. However, the classical model was improved by introducing a two-parameter gamma distribution for rainfall intensity. What is important is not the gamma distribution itself, but those characteristics of spatial variability of rainfall intensity whose CV decreases with increasing catchment area. Introducing the variability of rainfall intensity into the hydrological simulations explains how the CV of rainfall intensity decreases with increasing catchment area. It is difficult to reflect the rainfall-runoff processes in the model while neglecting the characteristics of rainfall intensity from the viewpoint of annual flood discharge variances.

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