A method for quantifying the role of dynamic storage as a physical buffer between snowmelt and streamflow at the catchment scale is introduced in this paper. The method describes a quantitative relation between hydrologic events (e.g., snowmelt) and responses (e.g., streamflow) by generating event-response ellipses that can be used to (a) characterize and compare catchment-scale dynamic storage processes, and (b) assess the closure of the water balance. Event-response ellipses allow for the role of dynamic, short-term storage to be quantified and compared between seasons and between catchments. This method is presented as an idealization of the system: a time series of a snowmelt event as a portion of a sinusoidal wave function. The event function is then related to a response function, which is the original event function modified mathematically through phase and magnitude shifts to represent the streamflow response. The direct relation of these two functions creates an event-response ellipse with measurable characteristics (e.g., eccentricity, angle). The ellipse characteristics integrate the timing and magnitude difference between the hydrologic event and response to quantify physical buffering through dynamic storage. Next, method is applied to eleven snowmelt seasons in two well-instrumented headwater snowmelt-dominated catchments with known differences in storage capacities. Results show the time-period average daily values produce different event-response ellipse characteristics for the two catchments. Event-response ellipses were also generated for individual snowmelt seasons; however, these annual applications of the method show more scatter relative to the time period averaged values. The event-response ellipse method provides a method to compare and evaluate the connectivity between snowmelt and streamflow as well as assumptions of water balance.
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