Hypsometry has historically been used as an indicator of geomorphic form of catchments and landforms. Yet there has been little work aimed at relating hypsometry to landform process and scale. This paper uses the SIBERIA catchment evolution model to explore linkages between catchment process and hypsometry. SIBERIA generates results that are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to observed hypsometric curves for physically realistic parameters. However, we show that not only does the hypsometry reflect landscape runoff and erosion process, but it is strongly dependent on channel network and catchment geometry. We show that the width to length ratio of the catchment has a significant influence on the shape of the hypsometric curve, though little on the hypsometric integral. For landforms dominated by fluvial sediment transport, the classic Strahler ‘mature’ hypsometric curve is only generated for catchments with roughly equal width and length. Narrow catchments show a hypsometric curve more similar to Strahler's ‘monadnock’ form. For landscapes dominated by diffusive transport, the simulated hypsometric curve is concave‐down everywhere, this being consistent with curves reported for some example catchments in France. Because the transition between diffusive dominance to fluvial is scale‐dependent, with larger catchments exhibiting greater fluvial dominance, then the hypsometric curve is a scale‐dependent descriptor of landforms. Experimental results for simulated landforms from a small‐scale rainfall‐erosion simulator are reported. It is shown that SIBERIA yields satisfactory fits to the data, confirming its ability to predict the form of the hypsometric curve from a simple model of geomorphic processes. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 1998
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