29 Aug 2023
 | 29 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Functional data analysis to quantify and investigate controls on and changes in baseflow seasonality

Kathryn A. Leeming, John P. Bloomfield, Gemma Coxon, and Yanchen Zheng

Abstract. Baseflow is the delayed component of streamflow from subsurface storage and is critical for sustaining ecological flows and ensuring water resource security. Understanding controls on and changes in baseflow, including the seasonality of baseflow, is therefore an important task. Baseflow seasonality has typically been investigated using pre-defined hydrological seasons. Instead, here, we investigate baseflow seasonality using data-led approaches that identify and cluster average annual baseflow hydrographs that exhibit early-, mid-, or late-seasonality. We apply a novel functional data analysis (FDA) approach and examine temporal changes in the timing of seasonal peaks in annual standardised baseflow hydrographs for 671 catchments across Great Britain (GB). We use data from the CAMELS-GB dataset for the period 1976 to 2015 split into two twenty-year time blocks (1976–1995 and 1996–2015). Functional clustering enables groups of catchments with similar distributions between time blocks to be identified. Changes in baseflow seasonality with time are investigated by identifying and characterising catchments that move between functional clusters and time blocks, while analysis of the timing of baseflow peaks provides additional temporal resolution to the early-, mid-, and late-season discretisation generated by the functional clustering. The analysis shows that baseflow seasonality has a spatio-temporally coherent structure across GB and catchment characteristics are a first order control on the form of seasonal baseflow clusters. Changes in climate are inferred to be the first order control on changes in baseflow seasonality between the two time blocks. A change to earlier seasonal baseflow in snow-melt influenced catchments in upland northern GB is associated with systematic warming across the two time blocks, and a move to earlier (later) baseflow seasonality across lowland southern, central and eastern (western, north-western and northern) catchments in GB is associated with earlier (later) seasonality in effective rainfall (defined as precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration). These changes in baseflow seasonality in non-snow-melt influenced catchments are consistent with the proposition that, in temperate environments, climate warming leading to vegetation phenology-mediated changes in evapotranspiration may be modifying the timing of hydrological cycles.

Kathryn A. Leeming et al.

Status: open (until 24 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-202', Anonymous Referee #1, 15 Sep 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-202', Anonymous Referee #2, 20 Sep 2023 reply

Kathryn A. Leeming et al.

Kathryn A. Leeming et al.


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Short summary
In this work we characterise annual patterns in baseflow, the component of streamflow that comes from subsurface storage. Our research identified early-, mid-, and late-seasonality of baseflow across catchments in Great Britain over two time blocks: 1976–1995 and 1996–2015, and found that many catchments have earlier seasonal patterns of baseflow in the second time period. These changes are linked to changes in climate signals: snow-melt in highland catchments and effective rainfall changes.