Frei, S; Fleckenstein, JH: Representing effects of micro-topography on runoff generation and sub-surface flow patterns by using superficial rill/depression storage height variations., Environmental Modelling & Software, 52(2014), 5-18 (2013)
An adequate representation of micro-topography in spatially explicit, physically based models can be crucial in modeling runoff generation, surface/subsurface flow interactions or subsurface flow patterns in hydrological systems with pronounced micro-topography. However, representation of micro-topography in numerical models usually requires high grid resolutions to capture relevant small scale variations in topography at the range of centimeters to meters. High grid resolutions usually result in longer simulation times, especially if fully integrated model approaches are used where the governing partial differential equations for surface and subsurface flow are solved simultaneously. This often restricts the implementation of micro-topography to plot scale models where the overall model domain is small to minimize computational cost resulting from a high grid resolution. In this study an approach is presented where a highly resolved digital elevation model (DEM) for a hummocky topography in a plot scale wetland model (10m x 21m x 2m), is represented by spatially distributed rill/depression storage zones in a numerical model with a planar surface. By replacing the explicit micro-topography with spatially distributed rill/depression storage zones, important effects of micro-topography on surface flow generation and subsurface transport characteristics (e.g. residence time distributions) are being preserved, while at the same time the number of computational nodes is reduced significantly. We demonstrate that the rill/depression storage concept, which has been used for some time to represent time delays in the generation of surface runoff, can also be used to mimic subsurface flow patterns caused by micro-topography. Results further indicate that the rill/depression storage concept is an efficient tool to represent micro-topography in plot scale models because model computation times drop significantly. As important aspects of surface and subsurface flows induced by micro-topography can be mimicked adequately by applying the rill/depression storage concept on a coarser grid, it may also be a useful tool to represent micro-topography in numerical flow models beyond the plot scale.
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