Map of the Valle Hermoso Catchment, Chile
  • Location: Ñuble Region, Chile; 36.91°S, 71.40°W
  • Operational Management: 
  • Purpose/Scientific Focus: Research basin to test hydrological models, understand hydrological processes dynamics like streamflow generation, snow accumulation and melt across different landscapes (slope, aspect, elevation, landcover), quantify hydrological sensitivity to climate change and interannual variability. Also serves as a field site for teaching and training undergraduate and graduate students.


  • Location (Physiographic Region): Located near Nevados de Chillán, a group of stratovolcanoes located in the Andes of Ñuble Region, Central Chile.  Valle Hermoso is situated on the lower slopes of 3,089 m (10,135 ft) Volcán Viejo (Volcán Chillán).
  • Area: 4.2 km2 
  • Elevation: 1,449–2,556 m  
  • Description (Physical–Ecological–Climatic Characteristics): Southwest-facing catchment covered by dense Nothofagus woodland below the treeline at ~2,080 m a.s.l. The area has a Mediterranean climate, with mean annual precipitation of 2,161 mm, a relevant contribution of solid precipitation, and annual mean temperature of 10°C. The upper basin has hot springs that run year-round, changing water temperature and chemical composition.   
  • Drainage/River System: Drainage into the Estero Renegado, tributary to the Rio Diguillín that drains to the larger Itata River downstream.
  • Site History/Historical Context:     
  • Main Land Cover(s): The dominant land cover is native forest, spanning 55% of the basin. The study area has a deciduous leaf forest dominated by Nothofagus species as “Roble” (Nothofagus obliqua), “Lenga” (Nothofagus pumilio), and “Ñirre” (Nothofagus antarctica), with heights varying from 3 m to a maximum of 20 m, being the majority within the range of 12 to 18 m.  Upper parts are non-vegetated, rocky terrain above treeline.  
  • Lithology/Soils: Soils are sandy loam overlying volcanic parent material. 
  • Mean Annual Temperature: 
  • Mean Total Annual Precipitation: 
  • Snow Characteristics: 
  • Years of Data:  

Stations & Observations

Observational Stations and Sites

Type Station Name Latitude Longitude Elevation Notes/Details
Meteorological Termas de Chillán Station 36.904°S 71.410°W 1,708 m operated by the Chilean meteorological service (DMC)
Snow and meteorology Volcan Chillán 36.893°S 71.411°W 2,075 m Operated by the National Water Bureau (DGA)
Meteorological Las Trancas 36.909°S 71.480°W 1,241 m Operated by the National Water Bureau (DGA)
Snow and meteorology Valle Hermoso 36.917°S 71.424°W 1,569 m Operated by UdeC and UChile
Stream gauging Valle Hermoso 36.916°S 71.418°W 1,601 m Operated by UdeC and UChile

Field Observation Campaigns and Other Measurements

Measurement Instrument Description Spatial/Temporal Resolution and Coverage Notes/Details
Terrestrial Laser Scanner RIEGL VZ6001
UAV Sensors Hillslope 2 flights 2022
Time-lapse Photographs 3-hourly Different slopes and in the open and under canopy
Snow Pits/Snow Surveys Manual (shovel and probe)

2022 Monthly; 2023 sporadic

Transects, different slopes and in the open and under canopy

Data Availability

Geospatial Data

Elevation 30 m DEM available
Landcover and Soils
Stream/River Network National river network system
Basin Delineation/Shapefile
Snow depth Sporadic UAV flight with snow depth (structure from motion)

Observational Data Availability    

Modelling Activities

Various models being applied (CRHM, CHM) looking at snow and vegetation interactions, and hydrological response under historical and projected climate conditions. Uncertainty analysis and sensitivity to modelling decisions.  CHM modelling at several watershed including Valle Hermoso. Looking at different hydrological sensitivities across different landscapes and climates across a latitudinal gradient in the Chilean Andes.

Contact & Further Information



  • Dr. James McPhee, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad de Chile (jmcphee@uchile.cl)   
  • Dr. Sebastián Krogh, Associate Professor, Departamento de Recursos Hídrico, Facultad de Ingeniería Agrícola, Campus Chillán, Universidad de Concepción (skrogh@udec.cl)