Hydrology without dimensions

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By rigorously accounting for dimensional homogeneity in physical laws, the Π theorem and the related self-similarity hypotheses allow us to achieve a dimensionless reformulation of scientific hypotheses in a lower-dimensional context. This paper presents applications of these concepts to the partitioning of water and soil on terrestrial landscapes. For such processes, their complexity and lack of first principle formulation make dimensional analysis an excellent tool to formulate theories that are amenable to empirical testing and analytical developments. The resulting scaling laws help reveal the dominant environmental controls for these partitionings. In particular, we discuss how the dryness index and the storage index affect the long-term rainfall partitioning, the key nonlinear control of the dryness index in global datasets of weathering rates, and the existence of new macroscopic relations among average variables in landscape evolution statistics. The scaling laws for the partitioning of sediments, the elevation profile, and the spectral scaling of self-similar topographies also unveil tantalizing analogies with turbulent flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 24 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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