The New England region in the Northeast U.S. receives high annual precipitation as rain and snow, which results in floods that endanger people and infrastructure. Owing to the complexity of hydrologic systems, increases in the frequency and intensity of large precipitation events do not always translate into increases in surface runoff measured as event flow at the basin outlet. However, recent studies have recognized positive trends in the frequency and magnitude of high-flow events in New England. For high-flow events of equal or greater than 2-year daily runoff, the runoff coefficients, or the fraction of precipitation converted into surface runoff during an event, were determined for 28 undisturbed New England basins with natural flow conditions. Results indicated that runoff coefficients increase in magnitude and variability with distance from the Atlantic coast toward the north and west. The average runoff coefficient of high-flow events across all basins is 0.90, while there exist many high-flow events with runoff coefficients greater than one. Also, runoff coefficients were generally stationary showing that flood events in undisturbed basins have remained proportional to precipitation inputs, despite increases in extreme precipitation, possibly due to shifts in evapotranspiration, snowpack, and soil moisture. Flood management efforts should continue to focus on large springtime precipitation events, which generate the highest runoff coefficients. Finally, this study can serve as a reference point for future exploration of the flood susceptibility of basins with anthropogenic alterations like dam construction or land use change.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Iman Hosseini-Shakib, Kevin Gardner, Anne Lightbody. Runoff Coefficients of High-flow Events in Undisturbed New England Basins. Authorea. February 11, 2020. DOI: 10.1002/essoar.10502249.1