Unit hydrographs derived from the Nash model

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20 Scopus citations


Unit hydrograph ordinates are often estimated by deconvoluting excess rainfall pulses and corresponding direct runoff. The resulting ordinates are given at discrete times spaced evenly at intervals equal to the duration of the rainfall pulse. If the new duration is not a multiple of the parent duration, hydrograph interpolation is required. Linear interpolation, piece-wise nonlinear interpolation and graphical smoothing have been used. These interpolation schemes are expedient but they lack theoretical basis and can lead to undesirable results. Interpolation can be avoided if the instantaneous unit hydrograph (IUH) for the watershed is known. Here two issues connected with the classic Nash IUH are examined: (1) how should the Nash parameters be estimated? and (2) under what conditions is the resulting hydrograph able to reasonably represent watershed response? In the first case, nonlinear constrained optimization provides better estimates of the IUH parameters than does the method of moments. In the second case, the Nash IUH gives good results on watersheds with mild shape unit hydrographs, but performs poorly on watersheds having sharply peaked unit hydrographs. Overall, in comparison to empirical interpolation alternatives, the Nash IUH offers a theoretically sound and practical approach to estimate unit hydrographs for a wide variety of watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-177
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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