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Interpreting the Hydrograph

Approach Segment
 It shows the discharge of the river before
the storm – antecedent flow rate.
 At the time when the storm begins, the
river’s response is negligible for although
some of the rain does fall directly into
the channel, most falls elsewhere in the
basin and takes time to reach the
Interpreting the Hydrograph
Rising Limb
 However, when the initial surface runoff and
later the throughflow eventually reach the river
there is an increase in discharge.
 This is indicated by the rising limb.
 Once overland flow begins (after interception
storage and the infiltration rate are exceeded)
and later, throughflow, the river’s discharge
begins to increase.
 The steeper the rising limb the faster the water
is reaching the channel from the drainage
Interpreting the Hydrograph
Lag Time
 The period between maximum precipitation
and peak discharge is referred to as lag time.
 Lag time varies according to conditions within
the drainage basin.
 Examples; soil and rock type, slope and size
of the basin, drainage density, type and
amount of vegetation and water already in
 In river basins with a short lag time there is
often a high peak discharge and the river is
more prone to flooding.
Interpreting the Hydrograph
Falling or Receding Limb
 It is the segment of the graph where discharge
is decreasing and the level of the river is
 This segment is usually less steep than the
rising limb because throughflow is still being
released into the channel.
 By the time, all the water from the storm has
passed through a given point in the channel.
 The river will have returned to its baseflow
level – unless there has been another storm
within the basin.
Interpreting the Hydrograph

Base Flow
 Base flow is very slow to respond to a storm
but by continually releasing water from the
lower ground it maintains the river’s flow
during period of low precipitation.
 Indeed, baseflow is more significant over a
longer period of time than an individual storm
and reflects seasonal changes in precipitation,
snow melt, vegetation and evapotranspiration.
Interpreting the Hydrograph

Bankfull Discharge
 It is the point when the level of water has
reached the top of its channel and any
further increase in discharge will result in
flooding of the surrounding land.
Flood Hydrograph
 Flood hydrograph is also known as Storm

What do you understand by flood hydrograph?

 The hydrograph is a means of showing the
discharge of a river at a given point over a short
period of time.
 The discharge is the amount of water originating as
precipitation which reaches the channel by surface
runoff, throughflow and baseflow.
 Discharge is therefore the water not stored in the
drainage basin by interception, as surface storage,
soil moisture storage, groundwater storage or lost
through evapotranspiration.
Measuring Discharge
 Discharge is the velocity or speed of the river,
measured in metres per second, multiplied by
the cross-sectional area of the river, measured
in square meters. This gives the volume in
cubic metres per second or cumecs and can
be expressed as:

where Q = discharge
A = cross-sectional area
V = velocity
How you recorded lag time?
 The length of time between peak precipitation and peak discharge.

What is meant by peak discharge?

 The maximum flow of the river during a rainstorm.

What is meant by peak rainfall?

 The time when the maximum amount of rain was falling.

What is meant by rising limb?

 The rapid increase in the river discharge as overland flow and
throughflow reach the river channel.

What is meant by falling or recession limb?

 The fall in river discharge as overland flow ceases and throughflow
Lists as many as you can
the influences of flood hydrographs.

Basin size, shape and relief.

Types of precipitation.


Land use.

Rock types (Geology).

Soil type.

Drainage density.

Tides and storm surges.

Factors That Influencing Flood
(1) Drainage Basin Size.

Small Size Large Size

It is likely that rainfall will It is likely that rainfall will

reach the river or reach the river or channel
channel more rapidly. is more slowly.

Water has short distance to Water has long distance to

travel. travel.

Lag time is shorter Lag time is longer

Factors That Influencing Flood
(2) Drainage Basin Shape.

Circular Basin Elongated Basin

It is more likely to have a It is more likely to have a

shorter lag time and a longer lag time and a
higher peak flow. lower peak flow.
Factors That Influencing Flood
(3) Rock Type.
Permeable Rock Impermeable Rock
Rocks that allow water to pass Rocks that do not allow water to
through them. pass through them such as
Two types of permeable rock: granite (impermeable).
1. porous (sandstone and chalk)
– allow water to fill the many
pores in the rock.
2. pervious (carboniferous
limestone) – allowing water
to enter bedding planes and
Give rapid or high infiltration, Give less infiltration, thus produce
thus there is little surface more run-off and a greater
run-of and limited number of number of streams.
Factors That Influencing Flood
(4) Soil Type.

 The type of soil controls the rate of infiltration, the amount of soil
moisture storage and the rate of throughflow.

Sandy Soil Clays

with Large Pore Spaces with Smaller Pore Spaces

Rapid (rate and volume) Less (rate and volume)

infiltration and do not infiltration and encourage
encourage flooding surface run-off. Thus,
increase the risks of
 Infiltration refers to the amount of water that passes through
the soil surface in terms of depth (inches) in a given time

 Lighter textured soils (such as sands or sandy loams) have

desirable infiltration rates.

 This is important in the fact that the turf can have water
penetrate into the soil relatively quickly so no runoff or
puddling occurs.

 'Heavy' textured soils which have a lot of clay and/or silt often
have poor water penetration (infiltration), because the space
that the soil occupies is relatively dense.

 Organic matter helps infiltration because of the soil

aggregation that occurs with organic matter (makes for larger
soil particles).

 The addition of turf grass to the turf-system generally

increases infiltration rates.
Factors That Influencing Flood
(5) Temperature.
Higher Temperature Lower Temerature
(Very Hot and Dry in (Very Cold in Winter)
The rate of The rate of
evapotranspiration is evapotranspiration is lower
Restrict infiltration Restrict infiltration
Less water flow into river. More water flow into the river
when there is a lot of
Less water flow into river.
Explain how types of precipitation can influence
the flood hydrographs and drainage basin.


• Long period of rainfall are a frequent cause of flooding.

• The soil becomes saturated and infiltration is reduced.
• This generates large quantities of surface runoff causing
rapid rises in the river discharge.
Types of Precipitation
(A)Prolonged Rainfall
• Flooding most frequently occurs following a long period of heavy rainfall when
the ground has become saturated and infiltration has been replaced by surface
runoff (overland flow).

(A)Intense Storms
• Example; Convectional Thunderstorms.
• When heavy rain occurs, the rainfall intensity may be greater than the infiltration
capacity of the soil (example; in summer in Britain, when the ground may be
• This resulting large quantities of surface runoff and produce a rapid rise in river
levels (flash floods) or rapid rise in river discharge.
• Heavy snowfall means that water is held in storage and river level drop. [Heavy
snow is intercepted and stored. This lead to a fall in river levels].
• When temperatures rise rapidly, meltwater soon reaches the main river. [melting
occurs the water is released].
• It is possible that the ground will remain frozen for some time, in which case
infiltration will be impeded (hinder).
• This may generate large quantities of surface runoff, which reach river channel
quickly especially if the ground remains frozen restricting infiltration.
• Rainfall is also intercepted but may infiltrate quickly if the soil is unsaturated.
• The rate at which it reaches the river channel depends upon interception,
infiltration and overland flow.
Explain how land use can influence the flood
hydrographs and drainage basin.
(1) Vegetation
• It may help to prevent flooding by intercepting rainfall (storing
moisture on its leaves before it evaporates back into the
• Estimates suggest that tropical rainforests intercept up to 80% of
rainfall (30% of which may later evaporate) whereas arable land
may intercept only 10%.
• Interception is less during the winter in Britain when deciduous
trees have shed their leaves and crops have been harvested to
expose bare earth.
• Plant roots, especially those of trees, reduce throughflow by
taking up water from the soil.
• Flooding is more likely to occur in deforested area, e.g. the
increasingly frequent and serious flooding in Bangladesh is
attributed to the removal of trees in Nepal and other Himalayan
• In area of afforestation, flooding may initially increase as the land
is cleared of old vegetation and drained, but later decrease as the
planted trees mature.
(2) Urbanisation
• Urbanisation has increased flood risk. Water cannot
infiltrate through tarmac and concrete, and gutters and
drains carry water more quickly to the nearest river.
• Small streams may be either canalized so that (with
friction reduced) the water flows away more quickly, or
culverted (a transverse and totally enclosed drain under a
road or railway), which allows only a limited amount of
water to pass through at one time.

(3) Land use & Human Activity

• Deforestation, afforestation, urbanization and agriculture
all have major impacts on the storage capabilities of a
drainage basin.
• In addition to these ‘accidental’ impacts, the construction
of dams and reservoirs strongly influences hydrograph.