A description, quantification and characterization of hillslope hydrological processes in the Weatherley catchment, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
Advances in hillslope hydrology have been numerous in the past two decades. However many of these advances have been highly site specific in nature, without identifying any means of linking processes across different spatial scales. Meaningful Prediction in Ungauged Basins (PUB) requires the understanding and observation of processes across a range of scales in order to draw out typical hydrological controls. Contempory tracer based methods of quantifying a combination of hillslope processes have identified hillslope geology as the main determinant in different catchment response types. A range of hillslope scale models have been developed in the last 20 years, using different levels of detail to simulate hillslope hydrological responses. Often the data heavy requirements of hillslope scale models make them impractical to apply at larger scales. While catchment scale models lack the ability to represent hillslope scale processes. In order to overcome this, a scale applicable model with the ability to represent hillslope and catchment dynamics is required to accurately quantify hillslope and catchment hydrological processes. This study aims to characterize typical hillslope soil type responses through inferring qualitative hillslope descriptions into a numerical catchment scale model allowing for lateral subsurface routing between adjacent soil horizons. Hydrometric and tracer observation are used to describe and quantify dominant hillslope hydrological processes. Simplifications of hillslope process descriptions are used to calibrate the model to represent the subsurface hillslope connectivity. Results show that hillslope scale hydrological process characteristics can be faithfully simulated with quaternary scale climate, land use and soils data, discriminating only between different hillslope soil types. The simplification of hillslope soils into three distinct groups allows for the further derivation of dimensionless descriptors of hillslope hydrological response using the Advection Dispersion Function. Slopes with shallower stratified soils showed rapid responses to rainfall in the soil water, while those with deeper soils and less horizontal stratification showed appreciably slower responses to rainfall, with older hillslope water dominating soil water for longer periods. This identifies soils as a dominant determinant in hillslope runoff characteristics. This allows for the characterization and ultimately a simplified classification of different hillslope soils and their response types, which is applicable at a range of scales.