Woolhiser, David A

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Dave Woolhiser Dave Woolhiser


David A. Woolhiser: Jan. 21, 1932 (LaCrosse, Wisconsin, USA) - August 19, 2022 (Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)


David Arthur Woolhiser was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, the son of Blanche L. and Algie D. Woolhiser. For the first three years the family lived on a dairy farm near Melrose, WI. In 1935 they moved to Stoddard, WI where his father built and operated the Log Cabin filling station. David attended grade school there (in a class of 8) and had a great childhood with all the summer and winter attractions provided by a small river town. He enjoyed hunting and fishing. The family later moved to Viroqua, WI where he graduated from high school in 1949. He graduated cum laude from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1955 with BS degrees in Agriculture and Civil Engineering. He was a member of Lamda Chi Alpha social fraternity and was elected to Alpha Zeta, Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi honorary fraternities.

After graduation, he moved to Tucson, AZ where he took a position with the Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Arizona. He met his lifelong love, Kathryn Brown- a fashion artist, in Tucson and they were married at her parents’ home in Lordsburg, NM on Apr. 21, 1957.

In 1958 he accepted a position with the Agricultural Research Service of USDA as a field engineer at the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed in Tombstone AZ. He completed an MS in Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona in 1959, and was transferred by the ARS USDA to Madison, WI where he completed a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with minors in Meteorology and Geophysics while working part-time and was elected to Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. He was transferred to Columbia, MO in 1961 as an engineer for a new ARS watershed research center. Academia called again and he accepted a position at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY developing a graduate program in Water Resources Engineering with a counterpart in the Department of Economics.

He returned to ARS in 1967 as Research Investigations Leader for Watershed Engineering in the Northern Plains Branch with headquarters in Fort Collins, CO. He was a Faculty Affiliate in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University and was a full member of the Graduate School. In 1977-78 he was a visiting professor at Imperial College, London and visiting scientist at the Institute of Hydrology in Wallingford, UK.

In 1981 he transferred to the Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, where he served as senior scientist and research leader and was an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona. He enjoyed backpacking in wilderness areas with his family and dogs. He also had great fun with paddling and sailing “Molly Brown”- a two-man kayak he built from a kit.

He retired in 1991 after 30 years of government service, and in 1993 he and Kay returned to Fort Collins. After retirement he served as visiting professor at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, and the University of Cordoba, Spain and was a part-time consultant. In 1994 he and Kay purchased an irrigated farm near Hotchkiss, CO and with son Carl, constructed buildings and improved the irrigation system for raising organic herbs and vegetables, hay and grain.

He was recognized for his expertise in the hydrology and hydro meteorology of arid lands, numerical modeling of surface runoff and probabilistic modeling of precipitation and runoff. He received many honors and awards for his research including the Robert E. Horton Award and elected Fellowship in the American Geophysical Union, the Arid Lands Hydraulic Engineering and the Ven Te Chow Awards and the Hunter Rouse Lectureship of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Ray K. Linsley Award of American Institute of Hydrology. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1990 and received the Distinguished Service Citation from the University Of Wisconsin in 1991. He felt that it was a privilege to work with his many colleagues and students over the years.

He was fond of reading, gourmet cooking and classical music, and after his retirement, joined the Tuesday morning sketch group in Ft. Collins, where Kay has been a member for many years, and he became an accomplished watercolor artist. Throughout his life, David gave generously to many charities, and was an active citizen with a strong commitment to democratic values and social justice.

He was especially proud of his children. Carl, Curt and Lisa and three grandchildren, Mark Huang, Mia Huang and Daniel Woolhiser.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Dave Woolhiser was particularly well-known for his work on flow routing and sediment transport. This started with analytical and numerical solutions of the kinematic wave equation, including work with the seminal author of the seminal paper on kinematic routing, the mathematician James Liggett in a paper in 1967. Later, working for the ARS in Fort Collins, Colorado this was extended in the thesis of David Kibler to take proper account of kinematic shocks caused by changes in slope, and also to radially convergent planes. At the same time in the PhD work of Roger Smith he created the early kinematic overland flow routing which used numerical finite difference solutions on cascades of infiltrating planes. These kinematic models were first published as CSU Hydrology Papers in 1970 and 1971. The initial modelling results were tested against experiments on the artificial watersheds and field plots at Fort Collins. Later in the thesis of Ed Rovey, this became the distributed model KINGEN and when sediment erosion and transport was added became the first version of KINEROS, the development of which was summarised in Smith et al. (1995).

Another interest, arising from the time Dave spent at the Walnut Gulch experimental catchments was stochastic rainfall models starting in the early 1980s. As part of this work, Dave was among the first to look at the links between rainfall variability and the Southern Oscillation index in a 1993 paper.


Keith Beven: I got to know Dave when he was a visiting scientist at the Institute of Hydrology in Wallingford UK, looking at the limitations of different solutions of the routing equations with Liz Morris in the late 1970s. His influence led me to apply kinematic routing methods to subsurface flows, including creating an index of when the approximation might be valid. In 1979, I moved to the University of Virginia and because of the contact with Dave was able to spend the two summers of 10980 and 1981 working with the ARS team in Fort Collins. There are two interesting stories from that time. The first was starting work on extending the KINEROS finite difference solution to 2 dimensions to allow more realistic representations of catchments. There was long period when we struggled to get stable solutions - before eventually realising that convergence in the grid would lead to kinematic shocks. Dave later work with Dave Goodrich to produce a finite element solution on a triangular gird that was more successful.

The other story relates to some large scale plot experiements on reclaimed mine land near the town of Colorado Springs where I was asked to join as official photographer. Several large plots on a re-established slope were isolated and watered from vertical riser sprinkling nozzles supplied from a large rubber tank further upslope that was filled from a bowser vehicle. After the sprinkling started, the rubber tank started to move and constrain the outlet pipe. The water supply lasted only about 15 minutes, which was enough to generate some partial overland flow into the surface flow collectors and small H flumes. The overland flow recession was, however, very short. Interestingly, flow continued from beneath the H flumes (presumably generated at the mine waste / replaced topsoil boundary) for much longer. Even more interesting was that there was also flow from 2 percolines to either side of the plot at a similar level that reached the stream some m further downslope.

Even though we only worked together briefly, we stayed in touched until well after his retirement. He was always wonderfully encouraging to younger hydrologists.

Reference Material[edit]

David A Woolhiser obituary

Selected Publications[edit]

Woolhiser, D.A. and Liggett, J.A., 1967. Unsteady, one‐dimensional flow over a plane—The rising hydrograph. Water Resources Research, 3(3), pp.753-771.

Liggett, J.A. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1967. Difference solutions of the shallow-water equation. Journal of the engineering mechanics division, 93(2), pp.39-72.

Woolhiser, D.A., Hanson, C.L. and Kuhlman, A.R., 1970. Overland flow on rangeland watersheds. Journal of Hydrology (New Zealand), pp.336-356.

Kibler, D F and Woolhsier, D. A., 1970, The Kinematic Cascade as a Hydrologic Model, Hydrology Paper No. 39, Fort Collins, CO.

Smith, R.E. and Woolhiser, D. A., 1971, Mathematical Simulation of Infiltrating Watersheds, Hydrology Paper No. 47, Fort Collins, CO.

Smith, R.E. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1971. Overland flow on an infiltrating surface. Water Resources Research, 7(4), pp.899-913.

Chang, H.Y., Simons, D.B. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1971. Flume experiments on alternate bar formation. Journal of the Waterways, Harbors and Coastal Engineering Division, 97(1), pp.155-165.

Todorovic, P. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1972. On the time when the extreme flood occurs. Water Resources Research, 8(6), pp.1433-1438.

Woolhiser, D.A., 1973. Hydrologic and watershed modeling–state of the art. Transactions of the ASAE, 16(3), pp.553-559.

Lane, L. J, Woolhsier, D A, and Yevjevich, Y J, 1975, Influence of simplifications in watershed geometry in simulation of surface runoff, Hydrology Paper No. 86, Fort Collins, CO.

Singh, V.P. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1976. Sensitivity of linear and nonlinear surface runoff models to input errors. Journal of hydrology, 29(3-4), pp.243-249.

Rovey, E.W., Woolhiser, D.A. and Smith, R.E., 1977. A Distributed kinematic model of upland watersheds, Hydrology Paper No. 93, Fort Collins, CO

Lane, L.J. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1977. Simplifications of watershed geometry affecting simulation of surface runoff. Journal of Hydrology, 35(1-2), pp.173-190.

Woolhiser, D.A. and Pegram, G.G., 1979. Maximum likelihood estimation of Fourier coefficients to describe seasonal variations of parameters in stochastic daily precipitation models. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 18(1), pp.34-42.

Morris, E.M. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1980. Unsteady one‐dimensional flow over a plane: Partial equilibrium and recession hydrographs. Water Resources Research, 16(2), pp.355-360.

Roldan, J. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1982. Stochastic daily precipitation models: 1. A comparison of occurrence processes. Water resources research, 18(5), pp.1451-1459.

Woolhiser, D.A. and Roldan, J., 1982. Stochastic daily precipitation models: 2. A comparison of distributions of amounts. Water resources research, 18(5), pp.1461-1468.

Gilley, J.E., Woolhiser, D.A. and Mc Whorter, D.B., 1985. Interrill soil erosion-Part I: Development of model equations. Transactions of the ASAE, 28(1), pp.147-0153.

Gilley, J.E., Woolhiser, D.A. and McWhorter, D.B., 1985. Interrill soil erosion–Part II: Testing and use of model equations. Transactions of the ASAE, 28(1), pp.154-0159.

Snyder, J.K. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1985. Effects of infiltration on chemical transport into overland flow. Transactions of the ASAE, 28(5), pp.1450-1457.

Woolhiser, D.A. and Osborn, H.B., 1985. A stochastic model of dimensionless thunderstorm rainfall. Water Resources Research, 21(4), pp.511-522.

Woolhiser, D.A. and Roldán, J., 1986. Seasonal and regional variability of parameters for stochastic daily precipitation models: South Dakota, USA. Water Resources Research, 22(6), pp.965-978.

Hershenhorn, J. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1987. Disaggregation of daily rainfall. Journal of Hydrology, 95(3-4), pp.299-322.

Adar, E.M., Neuman, S.P. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1988. Estimation of spatial recharge distribution using environmental isotopes and hydrochemical data, I. Mathematical model and application to synthetic data. Journal of hydrology, 97(3-4), pp.251-277.

Woolhiser, D.A. and Goodrich, D.C., 1988. Effect of storm rainfall intensity patterns on surface runoff. Journal of Hydrology, 102(1-4), pp.335-354.

Econopouly, T.W., Davis, D.R. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1990. Parameter transferability for a daily rainfall disaggregation model. Journal of hydrology, 118(1-4), pp.209-228.

Goodrich, D.C. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1991. Catchment hydrology. Rev. Geophys, 29, pp.202-209.

Goodrich, D.C., Woolhiser, D.A. and Keefer, T.O., 1991. Kinematic routing using finite elements on a triangular irregular network. Water Resources Research, 27(6), pp.995-1003

Woolhiser, D.A., Keefer, T.O. and Redmond, K.T., 1993. Southern Oscillation effects on daily precipitation in the southwestern United States. Water Resources Research, 29(4), pp.1287-1295.

Faurès, J.M., Goodrich, D.C., Woolhiser, D.A. and Sorooshian, S., 1995. Impact of small-scale spatial rainfall variability on runoff modeling. Journal of hydrology, 173(1-4), pp.309-326.

Goodrich, D.C., Faurès, J.M., Woolhiser, D.A., Lane, L.J. and Sorooshian, S., 1995. Measurement and analysis of small-scale convective storm rainfall variability. Journal of hydrology, 173(1-4), pp.283-308.

Smith, R.E., Goodrich, D.C., Woolhiser, D.A. and Unkrich, C.L., 1995. KINEROS-a kinematic runoff and erosion model. Computer models of watershed hydrology., pp.697-732.

Woolhiser, D.A., 1996. Search for physically based runoff model—A hydrologic El Dorado?. Journal of hydraulic engineering, 122(3), pp.122-129.

Woolhiser, D.A., Smith, R.E. and Giraldez, J.V., 1996. Effects of spatial variability of saturated hydraulic conductivity on Hortonian overland flow. Water Resources Research, 32(3), pp.671-678.

Giráldez, J.V. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1996. Analytical integration of the kinematic equation for runoff on a plane under constant rainfall rate and Smith and Parlange infiltration. Water resources research, 32(11), pp.3385-3389.

Goodrich, D.C., Lane, L.J., Shillito, R.M., Miller, S.N., Syed, K.H. and Woolhiser, D.A., 1997. Linearity of basin response as a function of scale in a semiarid watershed. Water resources research, 33(12), pp.2951-2965.

Singh, V.P. and Woolhiser, D.A., 2002. Mathematical modeling of watershed hydrology. Journal of hydrologic engineering, 7(4), pp.270-292.

Semmens, D.J., Goodrich, D.C., Unkrich, C.L., Smith, R.E., Woolhiser, D.A. and Miller, S.N., 2007. KINEROS2 and the AGWA modelling framework. Hydrological modelling in arid and semi-arid areas, p.49.