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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-2019-684
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-684
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 07 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 07 Jan 2020

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

Concentration-discharge relationships vary among hydrological events, reflecting differences in event characteristics

Julia L. A. Knapp1, Jana von Freyberg1,2, Bjørn Studer1, Leonie Kiewiet3, and James W. Kirchner1,2,4 Julia L. A. Knapp et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 3Department of Geography, University of Zürich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 4Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Abstract. Studying the response of streamwater chemistry to changes in discharge can provide valuable insights into how catchments store and release water and solutes. Previous studies have determined concentration-discharge (cQ) relationships from long-term, low-frequency data of a wide range of solutes. These analyses, however, provide little insight into the coupling of solute concentrations and flow during individual hydrologic events. Event-scale cQ relationships have rarely been investigated across a wide range of solutes and over extended periods of time, and thus little is known about differences and similarities between event-scale and long-term cQ relationships. Differences between event-scale and long-term cQ behavior may provide useful information about the processes regulating their transport through the landscape.

Here we analyze cQ relationships of 14 different solutes, ranging from major ions to trace metals, as well as electrical conductivity, in the Swiss Erlenbach catchment. From a 2-year time series of sub-hourly solute concentration data we determined long-term cQ relationships for each solute and compared them to cQ relationships of 30 individual events. The long-term cQ behavior of groundwater-sourced solutes was representative of their cQ behavior during hydrologic events. Other solutes, however, exhibited very different cQ patterns at the event and long-term scale. This was particularly true for trace metals as well as atmospheric and/or biologically active solutes, many of which exhibited highly variable cQ behavior from one event to the next. Most of this inter-event variability in cQ behavior can be explained by factors such as catchment wetness, season, event size, input concentrations, and event-water contributions. We present an overview of the processes regulating different groups of solutes, depending on their origin in and pathways through the catchment. Our analysis thus provides insight into controls on solute variations at the hydrologic event scale.

Julia L. A. Knapp et al.
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Short summary
Changes of streamwater chemistry in response to discharge changes provide important insights into the storage and release of water from the catchment. Here we investigate the variability in concentration-discharge relationships among different solutes and hydrologic events and relate it to catchment conditions and dominant water sources.
Changes of streamwater chemistry in response to discharge changes provide important insights...
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