Age-ranked hydrological budgets and a travel time description of catchment hydrology
Abstract. The theory of travel time and residence time distributions is reworked from the point of view of the hydrological storages and fluxes involved. The forward and backward travel time distribution functions are defined in terms of conditional probabilities. Previous approaches that used fixed travel time distributions are not consistent with our new derivation. We explain Niemi's formula and show how it can be interpreted as an expression of the Bayes theorem. Some connections between this theory and population theory are identified by introducing an expression which connects life expectancy with travel times. The theory can be applied to conservative solutes, including a method of estimating the storage selection functions. An example, based on the Nash hydrograph, illustrates some key aspects of the theory. Generalization to an arbitrary number of reservoirs is presented.