Runoff curve numbers for 10 small forested watersheds in the mountains of the eastern United States


Engineers and hydrologists use the curve number method to estimate runoff from rainfall for different land use and soil conditions; however, large uncertainties occur for estimates from forested watersheds. This investigation evaluates the accuracy and consistency of the method using rainfall-runoff series from 10 small forested-mountainous watersheds in the eastern United States, eight annual maximum series from New Hampshire,West Virginia, and North Carolina, and two partial duration series from Georgia. These series are the basis to compare tabulated curve numbers with values estimated using five methods. For nine of 10 watersheds, tabulated curve numbers do not accurately estimate runoff. One source of the large uncertainty is a consistent decrease in storm-event curve numbers with increasing rainfall. A calibrated constant curve number is suitable for only two of 10 watersheds; the others require a variable watershed curve number associated with different magnitude rainfalls or probabilities of occurrence. Paired watersheds provide consistent curve numbers, indicating that regional values for forested-mountainous watersheds (locally calibrated and adjusted for storm frequency) may be feasible.

  • Citation: Tedela, Negussie H.; McCutcheon, Steven C.; Rasmussen, Todd C.; Hawkins, Richard H.; Swank, Wayne T.; Campbell, John L.; Adams, Mary Beth; Jackson, C. Rhett; Tollner, Ernest W. 2012. Runoff curve numbers for 10 small forested watersheds in the mountains of the eastern United States. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. 17: 1188-1198.

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