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Test storm hydrograph:

1 (a) (i) Define the hydrological terms lag time and rising limb. (4)

Lagtime is the time difference between the peak rainfall and peak discharge/flow on a hydrograph.


Rising limb is the part of the discharge curve that shows a rapid increase of discharge from the onset of
the precipitation/rainfall until peak discharge is reached. (2)

(ii) Briefly explain one condition that may produce a rise in the level of baseflow on a storm hydrograph.

Baseflow occurs as a result of infiltration and percolation to groundwater level. It is likely to increase
where conditions encourage infiltration and percolation such as steady rainfall where infiltration exceeds
intensity (e.g. long periods of drizzle) or where soils/geology are permeable thus water infiltrated into soil
and later percolate into the ground as ground water.

Another reason could be due to dense vegetation cover where rainwater intercepted on leaves of plants
or trees will later be infiltrated into the soil via stem flow or throughfall and further move downward into
the ground via percolation and later stored as groundwater. This will produce a rise in the level of

(b) Explain how two drainage basin characteristics can influence the shape of a storm hydrograph. (8)

Drainage density i.e. the presence of a higher density of drainage, means that the storm hydrograph
would have a shorter lag time, steeper rising limb and higher peak discharge. This is because overland
flow and throughflow would have shorter distance to reach the river and would affect the hydrograph
more directly, that is cause a rise in river discharge.

A drainage basin with low drainage density means that the storm hydrograph would have a longer lag
time, gentle rising limb and lower peak discharge. This is because much of the water infiltrated into the
soil thus there will be less overland flow and would have a longer distance to reach the stream thus
causing a decrease in river discharge.

Another drainage basin characteristic is the presence of vegetation means that vegetation interception
rates are higher, so is infiltration rate via stemflow and throughfall. Much of the water in the soil will be
used up by the plants/trees through roots thus less throughflow thus less water overflow on the surface
joining the stream. As a result, this would lead to a shallower rising limb and longer lag time, with a
lower peak discharge.

Varies with drainage basin with less dense vegetation cover, interception and infiltration rate will be
much lower since much of the water overflow on the surface at faster rate reaching the river.

As a result, this would lead to a steeper rising limb and shorter lag time, with a higher peak discharge.

(c) Explain how urbanisation can affect river channel flows. [10]

Urbanisation of an area includes clearing the land of natural vegetation and landforms to make
way for housing development and industries, creating many man-made structures that can affect
the flow of water. Hence, when urbanisation occurs within a drainage basin, it can greatly affect
the speed, duration and amount of flows to and within a river channel.

Urbanisation also involves the laying of tarmac and pavements, and also the construction of
buildings, all made of concrete, glass and other impermeable surfaces. The creation of such
impermeable surfaces affects flows and transfers throughout the river basin system. Under
normal circumstances, when precipitation occurs, rainwater is partly intercepted by vegetation,
and will move to the river channel either by surface runoff or infiltration into the soil followed by
base flow through the soil and to the river. Urbanization is not the only factor that affects the
speed of water flow to and within the river channel..

Firstly, when a drainage Basin becomes urbanized and the ground around the river channel is
replaced with tiles and concrete. The presence of such impermeable surface would cause the
amount of infiltration into the ground to be greatly reduced and so, there would be lesser
through flow and base flow. Hence the water that is unable to infiltrate into the ground would
have to flow to the river as overland flow, thus increasing the rate of flow to the river channel.
Hence in storms the peak flow would take a shorter time to come as water would enter the river
channel at a greater speed.

When the river channel itself gets more urbanized, meaning having the channel sides lined with
concrete, this makes the wetted perimeter of the river channel smoother hence this would
reduce the friction the water has to overcome in order to flow thus water flow at the faster rate
(high velocity) later joining the stream thus cause an increase in discharge.

Another modification to the river to prevent possible floods is to deepen and widen the river
channel which increases the bank-full capacity. This increases the hydraulic radius of the river,
increasing the energy and speed of the river, hence affecting the flow, i.e. high peak discharge.

Clearing of forest or vegetation cover to make way for urban development is another factor that
might affects the flows to and within a river channel. During rainfall, since there is no trees or
vegetation cover to intercept water much of the water will overflow on the surface, later joining
the stream. There will be no roots to hold the soil together and loose soil will falls into the river
channel itself easily. As more load in the river would increase the channel roughness and
decrease its velocity.

In conclusion, urbanization such as clearing vegetation cover, covering the ground with tarmac,
concrete, building drains, gutter and modifying river channel does affect the speed, duration and
amount of flows to and within a river channel.