Whither field hydrology? The need for discovery science and outrageous hydrological hypotheses

T. P. Burt*, J. J. McDonnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

65 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Field hydrology is on the decline. Meanwhile, the need for new field-derived insight into the age, origin and pathway of water in the headwaters, where most runoff is generated, is more needed than ever. Water Resources Research (WRR) has included some of the most influential papers in field-based runoff process understanding, particularly in the formative years when the knowledge base was developing rapidly. Here we take advantage of this 50th anniversary of the journal to highlight a few of these important field-based papers and show how field scientists have posed strong and sometimes outrageous hypotheses-approaches so needed in an era of largely model-only research. We chronicle the decline in field work and note that it is not only the quantity of field work that is diminishing but its character is changing too: from discovery science to data collection for model parameterization. While the latter is a necessary activity, the loss of the former is a major concern if we are to advance the science of watershed hydrology. We outline a vision for field research to seek new fundamental understanding, new mechanistic explanations of how watershed systems work, particularly outside the regions of traditional focus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5919-5928
Number of pages10
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume51
Issue number8
Early online date13 Aug 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Keywords

  • HUMID HEADWATER CATCHMENTS
  • STORM RUNOFF GENERATION
  • DEBATES-THE FUTURE
  • STREAMFLOW GENERATION
  • UNCHANNELED CATCHMENT
  • SUBSURFACE STORMFLOW
  • SOLUTE TRANSPORT
  • COMMON PATH
  • WATER
  • TRANSPIRATION

Cite this