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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-344
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2020-344
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  27 Oct 2020

27 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Simulating historical flood events at the continental-scale: observational validation of a large-scale hydrodynamic model

Oliver E. J. Wing1,2, Andrew M. Smith1, Michael L. Marston3, Jeremy R. Porter3, Mike F. Amodeo3, Christopher C. Sampson1, and Paul D. Bates1,2 Oliver E. J. Wing et al.
  • 1Fathom, Bristol, United Kingdom
  • 2School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
  • 3First Street Foundation, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America

Abstract. Continental–global scale flood hazard models simulate design floods: theoretical flood events of a given probability. Since they output phenomena unobservable in reality, large-scale models are typically compared to more localised engineering models to evidence their accuracy. However, both types of model may share the same biases and so not validly illustrate predictive skill. Here, we adapt an existing continental-scale design flood framework of the contiguous US to simulate historical flood events. 35 discrete events are modelled and compared to observations of flood extent, water level, and inundated buildings. Model performance was highly variable depending on the flood event chosen and validation data used. While all events were accurately replicated in terms of flood extent, some modelled water levels deviated substantially from those measured in the field. In spite of this, the model generally replicated the observed flood events in the context of terrain data vertical accuracy, extreme discharge measurement uncertainties, and observational field data errors. This analysis highlights the continually improving fidelity of large-scale flood hazard models, yet also evidences the need for considerable advances in the accuracy of routinely collected field and high river flow data in order to interrogate flood inundation models more comprehensively.

Oliver E. J. Wing et al.

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Oliver E. J. Wing et al.

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Short summary
Global flood models are difficult to validate. They generally output theoretical flood events of a given probability, rather than an observed event they can be tested against. Here, we adapt a US-wide flood model to enable the rapid simulation of historical flood events in order to more robustly understand model biases. For 35 flood events, we highlight the challenges of model validation amidst observational data errors, yet evidence the increasing skill of large-scale models.
Global flood models are difficult to validate. They generally output theoretical flood events of...
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