Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Mahmood H. Nachabe, Ph.D., P.E.

Committee Member

Mark A. Ross, Ph.D., P.E

Committee Member

Jayantha Obeysekera, Ph.D., P.E.


Variable Source Areas, rainfall variability, hydrologic modeling


Simulating the processes of rainfall and runoff are at the core of hydrologic modeling. Geomorphologic features, rainfall variability, soil types, and water table depths strongly influence hydrological process in Florida ecosystems. Topographic characteristics of the terrain define the stream paths and landscape. Alteration of these characteristics as a result of urban and/or agricultural developments, for example, can highly influence wetlands and river basin response. There are two predominant landforms in Florida: wetlands, where Variable Saturated Areas form near streams causing saturation excess runoff, and uplands where runoff is mainly generated by infiltration excess. The objective of this work is to analyze the impacts of geomorphologic and hydrologic characteristics on runoff mechanisms in humid environments such as Florida. In general, most research at the hillslope scale use hypothetical values of rainfall, sometimes non-realistic values, and single slope forms to explain the geomorphic and hydrologic process on Variable Saturated Areas. In this thesis, the complexity of hillslope processes on actual Florida topography is assessed by coupling a Digital Elevation Model with a two-dimensional variable saturated-unsaturated flow model called HYDRUS-2D. Actual rainfall records and soil parameters from the Characterization Data for Selected Florida Soils, Soil Survey were used to evaluate hydrologic impacts. A commercial software package, River Tools was used to display and extract topographic information from the Digital Elevation Models.

Results show that when inflitration excess runoff is dominant, infiltration and runoff are very sensitive to time resolution, especially for convective storms. When saturation excess occurs, runoff is not affected by rainfall intensity. However, saturated hydraulic conductivity, depth to the water table, slope and curvature highly influence the extent of Variable Saturated Areas. Results indicate runoff in shallow water table environments is produced mainly by subsurface storm runoff, running below the surface, except in hillslopes with concave curvature and mild slopes. Additionally, concave hillslopes generate more saturation excess runoff than straight and convex hillslopes.