Mean response time (MRT) is a metric describing the propagation of catchment hydraulic behavior that reflects both hydro-climatic conditions and catchment characteristics. To provide a comprehensive understanding of catchment response over a longer-time scale for hydraulic processes, the MRT function for baseflow generation was derived using an instantaneous unit hydrograph (IUH) model that describes the subsurface response to effective rainfall inputs. IUH parameters were estimated based on the “match test” between the autocorrelation function (ACFs) derived from the filtered base flow time series and from the IUH parameters, under the GLUE framework. Regionalization of MRT was conducted using estimates and hydroclimate-landscape indices in 22 sub-basins of the Jinghe River Basin (JRB) in the Loess Plateau of northwest China. Results indicate there is strong equifinality in determination of the best parameter sets but the median values of the MRT estimates are relatively stable in the acceptable range of the parameters. MRTs vary markedly over the studied sub-basins, ranging from tens of days to more than a year. Climate, topography and geomorphology were identified as three first-order controls on recharge-baseflow response processes. Human activities involving the cultivation of permanent crops may elongate the baseflow MRT and hence increase the dynamic storage. Cross validation suggests the model can be used to estimate MRTs in ungauged catchments in similar regions of throughout the Loess Plateau. The proposed method provides a systematic approach for MRT estimation and regionalization in terms of hydroclimate and catchment characteristics, which is helpful in the sustainable water resources utilization and ecological protection in the Loess Plateau.
- Baseflow separation
- Instantaneous unit hydrograph
- Mean response time
- The Jinghe River basin