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Measurements of the initiation of post-wildfire runoff during rainstorms using in situ overland flow detectors

June 17, 2015

Overland flow detectors (OFDs) were deployed in 2012 on a hillslope burned by the 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder, Colorado, USA. These detectors were simple, electrical resistor-type instruments that output a voltage (0–2·5 V) and were designed to measure and record the time of runoff initiation, a signal proportional to water depth, and the runoff hydrograph during natural convective rainstorms.

Initiation of runoff was found to be spatially complex and began at different times in different locations on the hillslope. Runoff started first at upstream detectors 56% of the time, at the mid-stream detectors 6%, and at the downstream detectors 38% of the time. Initiation of post-wildfire runoff depended on the time-to-ponding, travel time between points, and the time to fill surface depression storage. These times ranged from 0·5–54, 0·4–1·1, and 0·2–14 minutes, respectively, indicating the importance of the ponding process in controlling the initiation of runoff at this site. Time-to-ponding was modeled as a function of the rainfall acceleration (i.e. the rate of change of rainfall intensity) and either the cumulative rainfall at the start of runoff or the soil–water deficit.

Measurements made by the OFDs provided physical insight into the spatial and temporal initiation of post-wildfire runoff during unsteady flow in response to time varying natural rainfall. They also provided data that can be telemetered and used to determine critical input parameters for hydrologic rainfall–runoff models.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Measurements of the initiation of post-wildfire runoff during rainstorms using in situ overland flow detectors
DOI 10.1002/esp.3704
Authors John A. Moody, Richard G. Martin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Series Number
Index ID 70189936
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch

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