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Open Access Publications from the University of California

PFHydro: A New Watershed-Scale Model for Post-Fire Runoff Simulation


Runoff increases after wildfires that burn vegetation and create a condition of soil-water repellence (SWR). A new post-fire watershed hydrological model, PFHydro, was created to explicitly simulate vegetation interception and SWR effects for four burn severity categories: high, medium, low severity and unburned. The model was applied to simulate post-fire runoff from the Upper Cache Creek Watershed in California, USA. Nash–Sutcliffe modeling efficiency (NSE) was used to assess model performance. The NSE was 0.80 and 0.88 for pre-fire water years (WY) 2000 and 2015, respectively. NSE was 0.88 and 0.93 for WYs 2016 (first year post-fire) and 2017 respectively. The simulated percentage of surface runoff in total runoff of WY 2016 was about six times that of pre-fire WY 2000 and three times that of WY 2015. The modeling results suggest that SWR is an important factor for post-fire runoff generation. The model was successful at simulating SWR behavior.

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