Linking the Budyko framework and the Dunne diagram

R. Trancoso, J.R. Larsen, C. McAlpine, T.R. McVicar, S. Phinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The spatial and temporal heterogeneity of climate, soils, topography and vegetation control the water and energy balances among catchments. Two well-known hydrological theories underpinning these processes are the Budyko framework and the Dunne diagram. Relating the scaling of water–energy balances (Budyko) and runoff generation mechanisms (Dunne) raises some important catchment comparison questions, namely: (i) how do streamflow characteristics vary according to the annual water and energy balances?; (ii) to what extent do biophysical drivers of runoff explain the observed streamflow variability?; and (iii) are there quantifiable process overlaps between these two approaches, and can they offer insights into the mechanics of catchment co-evolution? This study addresses these questions by analysing daily streamflow and precipitation time series data to quantify hydrological similarity across 355 catchments located along a tropical–temperate climatic gradient in eastern Australia. We used eight hydrological metrics to describe the hydrological response over a 33-year period (1980–2013). Hierarchical cluster, ordination analysis, the Budyko framework, and generalized additive models were used to evaluate hydrological similarity, extract the dominant response, and examine how the landscape and climatic characteristics of catchments influence the dominant streamflow response. The catchments were classified into five clusters based on the analysis of their hydrological characteristics and similarity, which vary along the annual water and energy balances gradient in the Budyko framework. Furthermore, we show that the streamflow similarity is explained by six catchment-specific biophysical factors that overlap with those described by the Dunne diagram for runoff generation, which in this case have the following order of relative importance: (i) Dryness Index; (ii) Fraction of Photosynthetically Active Radiation; (iii) Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity; (iv) Soil Depth; (v) Maximum Slope and (vi) Fraction of Woody Vegetation Cover. The research advances our understanding of the role of biophysical controls on hydrologic similarity and formal process links between the Budyko Framework and Dunne diagram of runoff mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-597
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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