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An evaluation of sediment rating curves for estimating suspended sediment concentrations for subsequent flux calculations

January 1, 2003

In the absence of actual suspended sediment concentration (SSC) measurements, hydrologists have used sediment rating (sediment transport) curves to estimate (predict) SSCs for subsequent flux calculations. Various evaluations of the sediment rating-curve method were made using data from long-term, daily sediment-measuring sites within large (>1 000 000 km2), medium (<1 000 000 to > 1000 km2), and small (<1000 km2) river basins in the USA and Europe relative to the estimation of suspended sediment fluxes. The evaluations address such issues as the accuracy of flux estimations for various levels of temporal resolution as well as the impact of sampling frequency on the magnitude of flux estimation errors. The sediment rating-curve method tends to underpredict high, and overpredict low SSCs. As such, the range of errors associated with concomitant flux estimates for relatively short time-frames (e.g. daily, weekly) are likely to be substantially larger than those associated with longer time-frames (e.g. quarterly, annually) because the over- and underpredictions do not have sufficient time to balance each other. Hence, when error limits must be kept under ??20%, temporal resolution probably should be limited to quarterly or greater. The evaluations indicate that over periods of 20 or more years, errors of <1% can be achieved using a single sediment rating curve based on data spanning the entire period. However, somewhat better estimates for the entire period, and markedly better annual estimates within the period, can be obtained if individual annual sediment rating curves are used instead. Relatively accurate (errors <??20%) annual suspended sediment fluxes can be obtained from hydrologically based monthly measurements/samples. For 5-year periods or longer, similar results can be obtained from measurements/samples collected once every 2 months. In either case, hydrologically based sampling, as opposed to calendar-based sampling is likely to limit the magnitude of flux estimation errors. Published in 2003 by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Publication Year 2003
Title An evaluation of sediment rating curves for estimating suspended sediment concentrations for subsequent flux calculations
DOI 10.1002/hyp.1299
Authors A. J. Horowitz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Index ID 70024634
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse