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121 Intersite Comparisons of Rainfall-Runoff Processes

Part 10. Rainfall-Runoff Processes

  1. Julia Jones

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa129

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Jones, J. 2006. Intersite Comparisons of Rainfall-Runoff Processes. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 10:121.

Author Information

  1. Oregon State University, Department of Geosciences, Corvallis, OR, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


This article argues that despite the limitations of rainfall-runoff data, there are compelling reasons for hydrologists to conduct many more intersite comparisons of rainfall-runoff data. Inferences about hydrologic processes are drawn from an unnecessarily narrow subset of temporal scales, spatial scales, and geographic conditions given the range of data available. In intersite comparison of rainfall-runoff data, we face the same challenge as hydrologic modelers, namely: how can we discriminate among alternative mechanistic explanations for any given rainfall-runoff (or runoff-runoff) dataset? This article (1) provides a justification for additional intersite comparisons given the history and lessons learned from rainfall-runoff and related studies, (2) demonstrates how intersite comparison helps discriminate among alternative hydrologic mechanisms, and (3) outlines steps involved in conducting intersite comparative analysis with a particular focus on analysis of primary data. The article argues that the best approach to intersite hydrology is (re)analysis of original data, which allows us to (1) expand the sample size to include data not yet analyzed and replicate hypothesis tests; (2) ask new questions, even of old data, posed by the current context for hydrology; (3) make new comparisons among records not formerly juxtaposed; (4) use novel statistical approaches to reveal hitherto obscure features of the data, and (5) use ancillary data to refine hypothesis tests about hydrologic mechanisms. The article provides suggestions for the steps involved in intersite comparison including (!) identifying a question, (2) developing a study design, (3) selecting, accessing, and merging datasets, and (4) choosing statistics for comparison of rainfall and runoff data. The endeavor of intersite comparison of rainfall and runoff data is analogous and complementary to the parallel quest for methods of parameter identification and model structure selection in hydrologic modeling.


  • effects of climate change;
  • effects of vegetation change;
  • hypothesis tests for hydrologic mechanisms;
  • long-term precipitation and streamflow records;
  • novel statistical analyses;
  • treated-control paired watershed experiments