Techniques for assessing the climatic sensitivity of river flow regimes

Donna Bower, David Hannah, Glenn McGregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

86 Citations (Scopus)


Regimes are useful tools for characterizing the seasonal behaviour of river flow and other hydroclimatological variables over an annual cycle (hydrological year). This paper develops and tests: (i) a regime classification method to identify spatial and temporal patterns in intraannual hydroctimatological response; and (ii) a novel sensitivity index (SI) to assess river flow regimes' climatic sensitivity. The classification of regime shape (form) and magnitude considers the whole annual cycle rather than isolating a single month or season for analysis, which has been the common approach of previous studies. The classification method is particularly useful for identifying large-scale patterns in regimes and their between-year stability, thus providing a context for short-term, small-scale process-based research. The SI provides a means of assessing the often-complex linkages between climatic drivers and river flow, as it identifies the strength and direction of associations between classifications of climate and river flow regimes. The SI has the potential for application to other problems where relationships between nominal classifications require to be found. These techniques are evaluated by application to a test data set of river flow, air temperature and rainfall time-series (1974-1999) for a sample of 35 UK river basins. The results support current knowledge about the hydroclimatology of the UK. Although this research does not seek to yield new, detailed physical process understanding, it provides perspective at large spatial and temporal scales upon climate and flow regime patterns and quantifies linkages. Having clearly demonstrated the regime classification and SI to be effective in an environment where the hydroclimatology is relatively well known, there appears to be much to gain from applying these techniques in parts of the world where patterns and associations between climate and hydrology are poorly understood. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2515-2543
Number of pages29
JournalHydrological Processes
Early online date27 Aug 2004
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2004


  • hydroclimatology
  • rainfall
  • classification
  • river flow
  • regionalization
  • regimes
  • climatic sensitivity
  • temperature


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