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Flash flood warning based on rainfall thresholds and soil moisture conditions: An assessment for gauged and ungauged basins

Abstract : The main objective of this paper is to evaluate a threshold-based flash flood warning method, by considering a wide range of climatic and physiographic conditions, and by focusing on ungauged basins. The method is derived from the flash flood guidance (FFG, hereafter) approach. The FFG is the depth of rain of a given duration, taken as uniform in space and time on a certain basin, necessary to cause minor flooding at the outlet of the considered basin. This rainfall depth, which is computed based on a hydrological model, is compared to either real-time-observed or forecasted rainfall of the same duration and on the same basin. If the nowcasted or forecasted rainfall depth is greater than the FFG, then flooding in the basin is considered likely. The study provides an assessment of this technique based on operational quality data from 11 mountainous basins (six nested included in five larger parent basins) located in north-eastern Italy and central France. The model used in this study is a semi-distributed conceptual rainfall-runoff model, following the structure of the PDM (probability distributed moisture) model. Two general questions are addressed: (1) How does the efficiency of the method evolve when the simulation parameters can not be calibrated but must be transposed from parent gauged basins to ungauged basins? (2) How sensitive are the results to the method used to estimate the initial soil moisture status? System performances are evaluated by means of categorical statistics, such as the critical success index (CSI). Results show that overall CSI is equal to 0.43 for the parent basins, where the hydrological model has been calibrated. CSI reduces to 0.28 for the interior basins, when model parameters are transposed from parent basins, and to 0.21, when both model parameters and soil moisture status is transposed from parent basins. Performance differences between FFG and use of time-constant soil moisture status are very high for the parent basins and decrease with decreasing the system accuracy. The percent difference amounts to 53% for the parent basins, to 25% for interior basins with parameter transposition, and to 19% for interior basins with parameter and soil moisture status transposition. These results improve our understanding of the applicability and reliability of this method at various scales and under various scenarios of data availability.
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Contributor : Thierry Pellarin <>
Submitted on : Thursday, May 28, 2009 - 10:06:12 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 3:54:30 PM



Daniele Norbiato, Marco Borga, Silvia Degli Esposti, Eric Gaume, Sandrine Anquetin. Flash flood warning based on rainfall thresholds and soil moisture conditions: An assessment for gauged and ungauged basins. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2008, 362 (3-4), pp.274 à 290. ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.08.023⟩. ⟨insu-00389060⟩



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