Tuesday Tip of the Week–Axis Zooming for True Peak Discharge

Written by Chris Goodell | May 13, 2014

Another simple, yet very convenient tool not found discussed in the manuals is the ability to zoom in on one of the axes of a graphical plot.  This is especially useful when trying to determine if you’ve captured the true peak discharge in a steeply rising hydrograph.  Take the following example: an unsteady flow dam breach output flow hydrograph.


Here we have a steeply rising flow hydrograph from a breach at the inline structure that appears to have a peak discharge of about 35,000 cfs.  To visually inspect whether or not this hydrograph captures the true peak, we can zoom in on the x axis by clicking and dragging a “bar” on the axis itself.  Simply place your cursor just below the x axis line, on the axis labels (in this plot, the time, in hours), then click and drag a red bar bracketing the portion of the hydrograph you wish to zoom in to.


Once you release the mouse button, the plot zooms in only on the x axis, in effect “spreading” out the hydrograph so that the peak is more apparent.  Notice that the full range of discharges still appear in the plot, we’ve simply truncated the time window to a more visually convenient range.


Now notice we can see that because the hydrograph output interval is set too coarse (in this case every 10 minutes), we miss out on the true peak of the discharge hydrograph.  It happens somewhere between 1950 hours and 2000 hours.  By rerunning the model with a smaller hydrograph output interval, we can capture a better representation of the true peak discharge.  In the next figure, the discharge hydrograph is shown for the same location with a 2 minute hydrograph output interval.


After zooming in again on the x axis, we can see that we have a much better representation of the true peak of the discharge hydrograph, which is closer to 42,000 cfs, versus the 35,000 cfs shown in the first simulation:


The axis zooming feature works on any plot (input or output) and you can zoom on either the x or y axis.  So next time you’re evaluating hydrographs, or simply wish to have a better view of a curve in any of the plots, give the axis zooming feature a try.


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