Similarity and scale in catchment storm response

Eric F. Wood, Murugesu Sivapalan, Keith Beven

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

239 Scopus citations


Until recently, very little progress had been made in understanding the relationship between small‐scale variability of topography, soil, and rainfalls and the storm response seen at the catchment scale. The work reviewed here represents the first attempt at a systematic theoretical framework for such understanding in the context of surface runoff generation by different processes. The parameterization of hydrological processes over a range of scales is examined, and the concept of the “representative elementary area” (REA) is introduced. The REA is a fundamental scale for catchment modeling at which continuum assumptions can be applied for the spatially variable controls and parameters, and spatial patterns no longer have to be considered explicitly. The investigation of scale leads into the concept of hydrologic similarity in which the effects of the environmental controls on runoff generation and flood frequency response be investigated independently of catchment scale. The paper reviews the authors' initial results and hopefully will motivate others to also investigate the issues of hydrologic scale and similarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics


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