This report describes the method used by the U.S. Geological Survey to determine the magnitude and frequency of momentary peak discharges at any place on a stream, whether a gaging-station record is available or not. The method is applicable to a region of any size, as a river basin or a State, so long as the region is hydrologically homogeneous.
The analysis provides two curves. The first expresses the flood discharge-time relation, showing variation of peak discharge, expressed as a ratio to the mean annual flood, with recurrence interval. The second relates the mean annual flood to the size of drainage area alone, or to the size area and other significant basin characteristics.
A frequency curve may be defined for any place in the region by use of these two curves. The procedure is: (a) measure the drainage area and other appropriate basin characteristics from maps; (b) from the second curve, select the mean annual flood corresponding to the proper drainage area factors; (c) from the first curve, select ratios of peak discharge to mean annual flood for selected recurrence intervals, as 2, 10, 25, and 50 years; and (d) multiply these ratios by the mean annual flood and plot the resulting discharges of known frequency to define the frequency curve.
Two reports not previously given general circulation are included as sections of this report. These are 'Plotting Positions in Frequency Analysis' by W. B. Langbein, and 'Characteristics of Frequency Curves Based on a Theoretical 1,000-Year Record' by M. A. Benson.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Flood-frequency analyses, Manual of Hydrology: Part 3