Camel’s hump of the continental creek

Here’s a typical hydrograph for a continental stream …

In this case for the East Branch of the Swift River near Hardwick, Massachusetts.

River flow peaks in March and April in unison with the spring thaw and the summer leafout not yet taking root. When it does the river responds with a steady downward slump we hydrologist call the “baseflow recession” which lasts through the summer and into early fall which – in this case by September – sees river flow drop off an order of magnitude (ten times lower) from its spring peak.

From there waters start to rise again, through the fall, but then come the dead of winter flow strangely plateaus before climbing the camel’s hump onto the peak of the spring thaw. I wonder what’s behind that winter plateau: Could it be the artifact of a deep freeze that puts the breaks on downward percolation until melting begins?

I’ll have to check with some New England hydrologists to find out more.

(First thing they’ll probably tell me is they don’t have any camels!)

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