Articles | Volume 17, issue 4
Research article
03 Apr 2017
Research article |  | 03 Apr 2017

Extreme weather exposure identification for road networks – a comparative assessment of statistical methods

Matthias Schlögl and Gregor Laaha

Abstract. The assessment of road infrastructure exposure to extreme weather events is of major importance for scientists and practitioners alike. In this study, we compare the different extreme value approaches and fitting methods with respect to their value for assessing the exposure of transport networks to extreme precipitation and temperature impacts. Based on an Austrian data set from 25 meteorological stations representing diverse meteorological conditions, we assess the added value of partial duration series (PDS) over the standardly used annual maxima series (AMS) in order to give recommendations for performing extreme value statistics of meteorological hazards. Results show the merits of the robust L-moment estimation, which yielded better results than maximum likelihood estimation in 62 % of all cases. At the same time, results question the general assumption of the threshold excess approach (employing PDS) being superior to the block maxima approach (employing AMS) due to information gain. For low return periods (non-extreme events) the PDS approach tends to overestimate return levels as compared to the AMS approach, whereas an opposite behavior was found for high return levels (extreme events). In extreme cases, an inappropriate threshold was shown to lead to considerable biases that may outperform the possible gain of information from including additional extreme events by far. This effect was visible from neither the square-root criterion nor standardly used graphical diagnosis (mean residual life plot) but rather from a direct comparison of AMS and PDS in combined quantile plots. We therefore recommend performing AMS and PDS approaches simultaneously in order to select the best-suited approach. This will make the analyses more robust, not only in cases where threshold selection and dependency introduces biases to the PDS approach but also in cases where the AMS contains non-extreme events that may introduce similar biases. For assessing the performance of extreme events we recommend the use of conditional performance measures that focus on rare events only in addition to standardly used unconditional indicators. The findings of the study directly address road and traffic management but can be transferred to a range of other environmental variables including meteorological and hydrological quantities.

Short summary
Different extreme value analysis approaches and fitting methods are compared with respect to their value for assessing the exposure of transport networks to extreme precipitation and temperature impacts. The merits of simultaneous analysis and combined plotting of various approaches are shown. The use of conditional performance metrics is proposed as an additional measure for assessing model goodness of fit. Findings of the study can be transferred to a range of environmental variables.
Final-revised paper