Articles | Volume 18, issue 2
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 463–477, 2014

Special issue: Predictions under change: water, earth, and biota in the anthropocene...

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 463–477, 2014

Opinion article 06 Feb 2014

Opinion article | 06 Feb 2014

Large-sample hydrology: a need to balance depth with breadth

H. V. Gupta1, C. Perrin2, G. Blöschl3, A. Montanari4, R. Kumar5, M. Clark6, and V. Andréassian2 H. V. Gupta et al.
  • 1Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
  • 2Irstea, Hydrosystems and bioprocesses Research Unit (HBAN), Antony, France
  • 3Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
  • 4Department DICAM, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  • 5UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany
  • 6Hydrometeorological Applications Program, Research Applications Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA

Abstract. A holy grail of hydrology is to understand catchment processes well enough that models can provide detailed simulations across a variety of hydrologic settings at multiple spatiotemporal scales, and under changing environmental conditions. Clearly, this cannot be achieved only through intensive place-based investigation at a small number of heavily instrumented catchments, or by empirical methods that do not fully exploit our understanding of hydrology. In this opinion paper, we discuss the need to actively promote and pursue the use of a "large catchment sample" approach to modeling the rainfall–runoff process, thereby balancing depth with breadth. We examine the history of such investigations, discuss the benefits (improved process understanding resulting in robustness of prediction at ungauged locations and under change), examine some practical challenges to implementation and, finally, provide perspectives on issues that need to be taken into account as we move forward. Ultimately, our objective is to provoke further discussion and participation, and to promote a potentially important theme for the upcoming Scientific Decade of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences entitled Panta Rhei.