Water balance, seasonality, budyko hypothesis, curve number method, swat, climate change, runoff, storage dynamics, evaporation, vegetation, base flow recession


The main goal of this dissertation is to develop a seasonal water balance model for evaporation, runoff and water storage change based on observations from a large number of watersheds, and further to obtain a comprehensive understanding on the dominant physical controls on intra-annual water balance. Meanwhile, the method for estimating evaporation and water storage based on recession analysis is improved by quantifying the seasonal pattern of the partial contributing area and contributing storage to base flow during low flow seasons. A new method for quantifying seasonality is developed in this research. The difference between precipitation and soil water storage change, defined as effective precipitation, is considered as the available water. As an analog to climate aridity index, the ratio between monthly potential evaporation and effective precipitation is defined as a monthly aridity index. Water-limited or energy-limited months are defined based on the threshold of 1. Water-limited or energy-limited seasons are defined by aggregating water-limited or energy-limited months, respectively. Seasonal evaporation is modeled by extending the Budyko hypothesis, which is originally for mean annual water balance; while seasonal surface runoff and base flow are modeled by generalizing the proportionality hypothesis originating from the SCS curve number model for surface runoff at the event scale. The developed seasonal evaporation and runoff models are evaluated based on watersheds across the United States. For the extended Budyko model, 250 out of 277 study watersheds have a Nash-Sutcliff efficiency (NSE) higher than 0.5, and for the seasonal runoff model, 179 out of 203 study watersheds have a NSE higher than 0.5. Furthermore, the connection between the seasonal parameters of the developed model and a variety of physical factors in the study watersheds is investigated. For the extended Budyko model, vegetation is identified as an important physical factor that related to the seasonal model parameters. However, the relationship is only strong in water-limited seasons, due to the seasonality of the vegetation coverage. In the seasonal runoff model, the key controlling factors for wetting capacity and initial wetting are soil hydraulic conductivity and maximum rainfall intensity respectively. As for initial evaporation, vegetation is identified as the strongest controlling factor. Besides long-term climate, this research identifies the key controlling factors on seasonal water balance: the effects of soil water storage, vegetation, soil hydraulic conductivity, and storminess. The developed model is applied to the Chipola River watershed and the Apalachicola River basin in Florida for assessing potential climate change impact on the seasonal water balance. The developed model performance is compared with a physically-based distributed hydrologic model of the Soil Water Assessment Tool, showing a good performance for seasonal runoff, evaporation and storage change.


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Graduation Date





Wang, Dingbao


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

Degree Program

Environmental Engineering








Release Date

August 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Engineering and Computer Science; Engineering and Computer Science -- Dissertations, Academic