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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-2019-588
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-588
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: review article 16 Jan 2020

Submitted as: review article | 16 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

A history of the concept of time of concentration

Keith J. Beven Keith J. Beven
  • Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

Abstract. The concept of time of concentration in the analysis of catchment responses dates back over 150 years to the introduction of the Rational Method. Since then it has been used in a variety of ways in the formulation of both unit hydrograph and distributed catchment models. It is normally discussed The concept of time of concentration in the analysis of catchment responses dates back over 150 years to the introduction of the Rational Method. Since then it has been used in a variety of ways in the formulation of both unit hydrograph and distributed catchment models. It is normally discussed in terms of the velocity of flow of a water particle from the furthest part of a catchment to the outlet. This is also the basis for the definition in the International Glossary of Hydrology. While conceptually simple, this definition is, however, wrong when applied to catchment responses where, in terms of how surface and subsurface flows produce hydrographs, it is more correct to discuss and teach the concept based on celerities and time to equilibrium. While this has been recognized since the 1960s, some recent papers and text remain confused over the definition and use of time of concentration. The paper sets out the history of its use and clarifies its relationship to time to equilibrium but suggests that both terms are not really useful in explaining hydrological responses. An appendix is included that quantifies the differences between the definitions of response times for subsurface and surface flows under simple assumptions that might be useful in teaching.

Keith J. Beven

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Keith J. Beven

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Short summary
The concept of time of concentration in the analysis of catchment responses dates back over 150 years. It is normally discussed in terms of the velocity of flow of a water particle from the furthest part of a catchment to the outlet. This is also the basis for the definition in the International Glossary of Hydrology, but this is in conflict with the way in which it is commonly used. This paper provides a clarification of the concept and its correct useage.
The concept of time of concentration in the analysis of catchment responses dates back over 150...
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