Abstract

Catchment classification strategies based on easily available physical characteristics are important for extrapolating hydrologic model parameters and improving hydrologic predictions in ungauged catchments. In this study, we conduct an experiment of catchment classification and explore the feasibility of characterizing hydrologically similar catchments using certain physical characteristics in upstream regions of the Huai River Basin. The similarity metrics of hydrologic response factors (high flow, low flow and average annual runoff) and physical factors (topography, shape, soil and vegetation) are fed into the K-means algorithm for catchment classification. All the catchments are classified into two classes regardless of the types of metrics used. By comparing the overlap coefficient (η) and Rand index (RI) between any two classification results, we found that the topography classification displays the highest concordance with the high flow classification (η = 79.2% and RI = 0.66) among all metrics. Including more metrics would not produce consistently better classification results. The optimal combination of metrics, with η = 87.5%, is the high flow metrics (Q10%, SFH and MAX90) with the topography metrics (AS and HI). The results indicate that the physical metrics adopted for hydrologic classification should be determined carefully in terms of specific hydrologic characteristics.

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