CR 11:149-159 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/cr011149

Explaining spatial variability in mean annual runoff in the conterminous United States

David M. Wolock1,*, Gregory J. McCabe2

1U.S. Geological Survey, 4821 Quail Crest Place, Lawrence, Kansas 66049, USA
2U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, MS 412, Denver, Colorado 80225, USA

ABSTRACT: The hydrologic concepts needed in a water-balance model to estimate the spatial variation in mean annual runoff for the 344 climate divisions in the conterminous United States (U.S.) were determined. The concepts that were evaluated were the climatic supply of water (precipitation), climatic demand for water (potential evapotranspiration), seasonality in supply and demand, and soil-moisture-storage capacity. Most (91%) of the spatial variability in mean annual runoff for the climate divisions in the conterminous U.S. was explained by the spatial variability of mean annual precipitation minus mean annual potential evapotranspiration. When soil-moisture-storage capacity and seasonality in supply and demand were added to the water balance, the explained variance in mean annual runoff increased slightly, and the error in estimated mean annual runoff decreased significantly. Adding soil-moisture-storage capacity and seasonality in supply and demand provided the most improvement in areas where seasonal supply and demand are out of phase.


KEY WORDS: Runoff · Streamflow · Hydrologic modeling · Hydroclimatology


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