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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-205
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-205
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 04 Jun 2019

Research article | 04 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Recession analysis 42 years later – work yet to be done

Elizabeth R. Jachens1, David E. Rupp2, Clément Roques3, and John S. Selker1 Elizabeth R. Jachens et al.
  • 1Department of Biological and Ecologic Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97330, USA
  • 2Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97330, USA
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Abstract. Recession analysis is a classical method employed in hydrology to assess watersheds’ hydrological properties by means of the receding limb of a hydrograph, frequently expressed as the rate of change in discharge (dQ/dt) against discharge (Q). This relationship is often assumed to take the form of a power law −dQ/dt = aQb where a and b are recession parameters. Recent studies have highlighted major differences in the estimation of the recession parameters depending on the method, casting doubt on our ability to properly evaluate and compare hydrological properties across watersheds based on recession analysis. This study shows that estimation based on collective recessions as an average watershed response is strongly affected by the distributions event inter-arrival time, magnitudes, and antecedent conditions, implying that the resulting recession parameters do not represent watershed properties as much as they represent the climate. The clear conclusion is that proper evaluation of watershed properties using recession analysis requires considering individual recession events.

Elizabeth R. Jachens et al.
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Elizabeth R. Jachens et al.
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Short summary
Recession analysis uses the receding streamflow following precipitation events to estimate watershed-average properties. Two methods for recession analysis use recession events individually or all events collectively. Using synthetic case studies, this paper shows that analyzing recessions collectively produces flawed interpretations. Moving forward, recession analysis using individual recessions should be used to describe the average and variability of watershed behavior.
Recession analysis uses the receding streamflow following precipitation events to estimate...
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