Hydrological Catchment Classification Using a Data-Based Mechanistic Strategy

  • Thorsten Wagener
  • Neil McIntyre


Catchment classification remains a significant challenge for hydrologists, with available schemes not providing a sufficient basis for consistently distinguishing between different types of hydrological behavior. We analyze 278 catchments distributed across the Eastern USA using a data-based mechanistic (DBM) strategy. We attempt to understand the catchment similarity that can be found with respect to both model parameters (if the same model structure is applied) and with respect to model structures identified as most suitable. Finally, we relate the identified structures and parameters to available physical and climatic catchment-scale characteristics to see whether a further generalization of our result is possible. A significant regional pattern emerged, reflecting the influences of aridity, elevation (steepness) and temperature. In terms of parameter estimates, the most interesting variability between catchments is seen in the response nonlinearity. Significant regional patterns in the non-linearity parameters emerged, and reasonable physical explanations were proposed. Overall, the results of our preliminary study provided here give the impression that the DBM method could be fruitfully applied towards the objective of catchment classification.


Effective Rainfall Linear Transfer Function Single Store Physical Plausibility State Dependent Parameter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Prof. Peter Young for supporting both of us since we first met while we were PhD students. His inquisitive nature, his openness and his friendly nature provided a great example to us. We’d like to thank the Symposium organizers and the editors of this book. Thanks to Keith Sawicz for producing Fig. 23.1. Partial funding to TW was provided by an EPA STAR Early Career Award. The CAPTAIN toolbox ( was used under license from Lancaster University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK

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