Evaluation of Soil Moisture, Storm Characteristics, and Their Influence on Storm Runoff and Water Yield at the Panola Mountain Research Watershed, Georgia, U.S.A.

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Jeffrey W Riley, USGS Georgia Water Science Center Norcross, Norcross, GA, United States and Brent T Aulenbach, U.S. Geological Survey, South Atlantic Water Science Center, Norcross, GA, United States
Understanding the factors that control runoff processes is important for many aspects of water supply and ecosystem protection, especially during climatic extremes that result in flooding or droughts; potentially impacting human safety. Furthermore, having knowledge of the conditions during which runoff occurs contributes to the conceptual understanding of the hydrologic cycle and may improve parameterization of hydrologic models. We evaluated soil moisture, storm characteristics, and the subsequent runoff and water yield for 297 storms over an eight-year period at Panola Mountain Research Watershed to better understand runoff generation processes. Panola Mountain Research Watershed is a small (41-hectare), relatively undisturbed forested watershed near Atlanta, GA, U.S.A. Strong relations were observed between total precipitation for a given storm, deep (70 cm below surface) antecedent soil moisture content and the volume of runoff. However, the strength of the relations varied based on occurrence during the growing (April – September; 172 storms) or dormant (October – March; 125 storms) period. In general, soil moisture responded at a minimum of 15 cm depth for all but 18 events. In addition, we found storms that initiated a response of deep soil moisture (70 cm below surface) to be an important factor relating to storm runoff and water yield. Seventy percent of the dormant period storms generated a response at 70 cm depth compared to 58% of growing period storms. A stronger relation between soil moisture and water yield was noted during the dormant period and indicated that all storms that produced a water yield >12% occurred when deep pre-event soil moisture was >20%. Similar patterns were also present during the growing season with occasional intense thunderstorms also generating higher water yields even in the absence of high soil moisture. The importance of deep soil moisture likely reflects the overall status of watershed storage conditions.