Conceptual Hydrological Models

  • Zhaofei LiuEmail author
  • Yamei Wang
  • Zongxue XuEmail author
  • Qingyun Duan
Reference work entry


Conceptual hydrological models, sometimes also called gray-box models, are precipitation-runoff models built based on observed or assumed empirical relationships among different hydrological variables. They are different from black-box models which consider precipitation-runoff relationship only statistically. They are also different from the physically based distributed hydrological models which are based on solving differential equations describing the physical laws of mass, energy, and momentum conservations. This chapter describes how conceptual hydrological models represent the different hydrological processes involved in converting precipitation to runoff over land, and then to streamflow discharge at the basin outlet, including precipitation, snow accumulation and ablation, infiltration, soil moisture storage, evapotranspiration, runoff generation, baseflow, and river routing. Some of the well-known models are also used for illustration.


Conceptual hydrological codel Precipitation Infiltration Soil moisture storage Evaporation Evapotranspiration Runoff generation River routing Tank model Xinanjiang model Sacramento model 


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Faculty of Geographical ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Water ScienceBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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