13 Mar 2023
 | 13 Mar 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Estimating response times, flow velocities and roughness coefficients of Canadian Prairie basins

Kevin Robert Shook, Paul H. Whitfield, Christopher Spence, and John Willard Pomeroy

Abstract. The hydrology and hydrography of the Canadian Prairies are complex and difficult to represent in hydrological models. Recent studies suggest that runoff velocities in the Canadian Prairies may be much smaller than are generally assumed.

Times to peak, basin-scale flow velocities and roughnesses were derived from hourly streamflow hydrographs from 23 basins in the central Alberta Prairies. The estimated velocities were much smaller than would be estimated from most commonly used empirical equations suggesting that many existing methods are not suitable for estimating time to peak or lag times in these basins. Basin area was found to be a poor predictor of basin-scale rainfall-runoff flow velocity. Estimated velocities generally increased with basin scale, indicating that slow basin response at small scales could be related to predominance of overland and/or shallow subsurface flow over the very level topography.

Basin-scale Manning’s roughness parameters, commonly used in hydrological models, were found to be orders of magnitude greater than values commonly used for streams in other parts of the world. The very large values of roughness call into question whether the Manning equation should be used for modelling runoff on the Prairies. These results have important implications for modelling rainfall-runoff in this region since using widely published values of roughness will result in poor model performance. It is likely that the Darcy-Weisbach equation, which is applicable to all flow regimes, may perform better in hydrological models of this region. Further modelling and field research will be required to determine the physical causes of these very small basin-scale velocities.

Kevin Robert Shook et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-51', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 Apr 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Kevin Shook, 28 Sep 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-51', Anonymous Referee #2, 01 Sep 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Kevin Shook, 28 Sep 2023

Kevin Robert Shook et al.

Kevin Robert Shook et al.


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Short summary
Recent studies suggest that the velocities of water running off landscapes in the Canadian Prairies may be much smaller than are generally assumed. Analyses of historical flows for 23 basins in central Alberta, showed that many of the rivers responded more slowly, and that the flows are much slower, than would be estimated from equations developed elsewhere. The effects of slow flow velocities on the development of hydrological models of the region are discussed, as are the possible causes.