Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): A.J. Jakeman; G.M. Hornberger
    Date: 1993
    Source: Water Resources Research VOL. 29. NO. 8. Pages 2637-2649.
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: View PDF  (1.2 MB)


    Development of mathmatical models relating the precipitation incident upon a catchment to the streamflow emanating from the catchment has been a major focus af surface water hydrology for decades. Generally, values for parameters in such models must be selected so that runoff calculated from the model "matches" recorded runoff from some historical period. Despite the fact that the physics governing the path of a drop of water through a catchment to the stream involves complex relationships, evidence indicates that the information content in a rainfall-runoff record is sufficient to support models of only very limited complexity. This begs the question of what limits the observed data place on the allowable complexity of rainfall-runoff models. Time series techniques are applied for estimating transfer functions to determine how many parameters are appropriate to describe the relationship between precipitation and streamflow in the case where data on only precipitation, air temperature, and streamflow are available. Statistics from an "information matrix" provide the clues necessary for determining allowable model complexity. Time series models are developed for seven catchments with widely varying physical characteristics in different temperate climatic regimes to demostrate the method. It is found that after modulating the measured rainfall using a nonlinear loss function, the rainfall-runoff response of all catchments is well represented using a linear model. The two components can be interperated as defining a "quick flow" and "slow flow" response of the given catchment. The method therefore provides a statistically rigorous way to seperate hydrographs and parameterize their response behavior. The ability to construct reliable transfer function models for describing the rainfall-runoff process offers a new approach to investigate empirically the controls of physical catchments through the extensive analysis of historical data sets.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Jakeman, A.J.; Hornberger, G.M. 1993. How much complexity is warranted in a rainfall-runoff model?. Water Resources Research VOL. 29. NO. 8. Pages 2637-2649.

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page