Karstic watersheds are highly complex hydrogeological systems that are characterized by a multiscale behaviour corresponding to the different pathways of water in these systems. The main issue of karstic spring discharge fluctuations consists in the presence and the identification of characteristic time scales in the discharge time series.
To identify and characterize these dynamics, we acquired, for many years at the outlet of two karstic watersheds in South of France, discharge data at 3-mn, 30-mn and daily sampling rate. These hydrological records constitute to our knowledge the longest uninterrupted discharge time series available at these sampling rates. The analysis of the hydrological records at different levels of detail leads to a natural scale analysis of these time series in a multifractal framework.
From a universal class of multifractal models based on cascade multiplicative processes, the time series first highlights two cut-off scales around 1 and 16 h that correspond to distinct responses of the aquifer drainage system. Then we provide estimates of the multifractal parameters α and C1 and the moment of divergence qD corresponding to the behaviour of karstic systems. These results constitute the first estimates of the multifractal characteristics of karstic spingflows based on 10 years of high-resolution discharge time series and should lead to several improvements in rainfall-karstic springflow simulation models. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.