446 Accounting for Rainfall Spatial Variability in Flash Flood Prediction

Tuesday, 8 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Manabendra Saharia, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and P. E. Kirstetter, J. J. Gourley, and H. Vergara

Flash floods are a particularly damaging natural hazard worldwide in terms of both fatalities and property damage. In the United States, the lack of a comprehensive database that catalogues information related to flash flood timing, location, causative rainfall, and basin geomorphology has hindered broad characterization studies. First a representative and long archive of around 30,000 flooding events during 2002-2011 is used to analyze the spatial and temporal variability of flash floods. We also derive large number of spatially distributed geomorphological and climatological parameters such as basin area, mean annual precipitation, basin slope etc. to identify static basin characteristics that influence flood response. For the same period, the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) has produced a decadal archive of Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor (MRMS) radar-only precipitation rates at 1-km spatial resolution with 5-min temporal resolution. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to analyze the impact of event-level precipitation variability on flooding using a big data approach. To analyze the impact of sub-basin scale rainfall spatial variability on flooding, certain indices such as the first and second scaled moment of rainfall, horizontal gap, vertical gap etc. are computed from the MRMS dataset. Our objective is to develop a robust understanding of how rainfall spatial variability impacts flash flood severity and to quantify its contribution relative to basin physiography. The database has been subjected to rigorous quality control by accounting for radar beam height and percentage snow in basins. So far studies involving rainfall variability indices have only been performed on a case study basis, and a large scale approach is expected to provide a deeper insight into how sub-basin scale precipitation variability affects flooding. Finally, these findings are validated using the National Weather Service storm reports and a historical flood fatalities database. An improved understanding of sub-basin scale rainfall spatial variability will aid in developing a robust flash flood severity index as well as identifying basins which could most benefit from distributed hydrologic modeling. This analysis framework will serve as a baseline for evaluating distributed hydrologic model simulations such as the Flooded Locations And Simulated Hydrographs Project (FLASH) (http://flash.ou.edu).
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