Initial Publication Date: July 7, 2017

Creating a Time Series Plot in Excel


The purpose of this module is to demonstrate how to create a time-series plot using MS Excel. The module is developed by using USGS streamflow data as an example, but the same process can be followed for any data series. It is assumed that all the data is already imported into Excel.

Input Data

To get the data for this module, you must have completed downloading and exporting the data module. The output of the exporting data module becomes the input for this module. You can get the input data from the following link: Streamflow Time Series (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 109kB Nov6 12)

Creating a Time Series Plot

A time series of USGS streamflow records for a station is shown below in an Excel sheet. To create a time series plot, both the time stamp and data value are needed. The time stamp associated with data is stored in one column in Excel, and corresponding data values are stored in another column as shown below (Column C has time stamp and column D has streamflow values in cfs).


To create a time series plot in Excel, first select the time (DateTime in this case) Column and then the data series (streamflow in this case) column. Next, click on the Insert ribbon, and then select Scatter. From scatter plot options, select Scatter with Smooth Lines as shown below.


A time series plot of streamflow will be created as shown below.


The legend, title and axes of this plot can then be reformatted to make the time series plot look a little more legible and professional as shown below.


Long-term streamflow data as shown above and streamflow hydrographs for individual events are typically presented by using smooth scatter plots. Precipitation data are typically represented by using column plots.

OK, you are done creating a time series plot. Save your excel file.