Articles | Volume 17, issue 7
Research article
21 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 21 Jul 2017

Efficient pan-European river flood hazard modelling through a combination of statistical and physical models

Dominik Paprotny, Oswaldo Morales-Nápoles, and Sebastiaan N. Jonkman

Abstract. Flood hazard is currently being researched on continental and global scales, using models of increasing complexity. In this paper we investigate a different, simplified approach, which combines statistical and physical models in place of conventional rainfall-run-off models to carry out flood mapping for Europe. A Bayesian-network-based model built in a previous study is employed to generate return-period flow rates in European rivers with a catchment area larger than 100 km2. The simulations are performed using a one-dimensional steady-state hydraulic model and the results are post-processed using Geographical Information System (GIS) software in order to derive flood zones. This approach is validated by comparison with Joint Research Centre's (JRC) pan-European map and five local flood studies from different countries. Overall, the two approaches show a similar performance in recreating flood zones of local maps. The simplified approach achieved a similar level of accuracy, while substantially reducing the computational time. The paper also presents the aggregated results on the flood hazard in Europe, including future projections. We find relatively small changes in flood hazard, i.e. an increase of flood zones area by 2–4 % by the end of the century compared to the historical scenario. However, when current flood protection standards are taken into account, the flood-prone area increases substantially in the future (28–38 % for a 100-year return period). This is because in many parts of Europe river discharge with the same return period is projected to increase in the future, thus making the protection standards insufficient.

Final-revised paper