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Journal of Hydrology

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The Lurbach karst system (Styria, Austria) is drained by two major springs and replenished by both autogenic recharge from the karst massif itself and a sinking stream that originates in low permeable schists (allogenic recharge). Detailed data from two events recorded during a tracer experiment in 2008 demonstrate that an overflow from one of the sub-catchments to the other is activated if the discharge of the main spring exceeds a certain threshold. Time series analysis (autocorrelation and cross-correlation) was applied to examine to what extent the various available methods support the identification of the transient inter-catchment flow observed in this binary karst system. As inter-catchment flow is found to be intermittent, the evaluation was focused on single events. In order to support the interpretation of the results from the time series analysis a simplified groundwater flow model was built using MODFLOW. The groundwater model is based on the current conceptual understanding of the karst system and represents a synthetic karst aquifer for which the same methods were applied. Using the wetting capability package of MODFLOW, the model simulated an overflow similar to what has been observed during the tracer experiment. Various intensities of allogenic recharge were employed to generate synthetic discharge data for the time series analysis. In addition, geometric and hydraulic properties of the karst system were varied in several model scenarios. This approach helps to identify effects of allogenic recharge and aquifer properties in the results from the time series analysis. Comparing the results from the time series analysis of the observed data with those of the synthetic data a good agreement was found. For instance, the cross-correlograms show similar patterns with respect to time lags and maximum cross-correlation coefficients if appropriate hydraulic parameters are assigned to the groundwater model. The comparable behaviors of the real and the synthetic system allow to deduce that similar aquifer properties are relevant in both systems. In particular, the heterogeneity of aquifer parameters appears to be a controlling factor. Moreover, the location of the overflow connecting the sub-catchments of the two springs is found to be of primary importance, regarding the occurrence of inter-catchment flow. This further supports our current understanding of an overflow zone located in the upper part of the Lurbach karst aquifer. Thus, time series analysis of single events can potentially be used to characterize transient inter-catchment flow behavior of karst systems.


Binary karst aquifer; Single event; Overflow behavior; Time series analysis; MODFLOW; Single-continuum model

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Digital Object Identifier (DOI)