Hydrometeorological analysis of the 12 and 13 September 2019 widespread flash flooding in eastern Spain
- Grup de Meteorologia, Departament de Física, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Abstract. On 12 and 13 September 2019, a long-lasting heavy precipitation episode (HPE) affected the València, Murcia and Almería regions in eastern Spain. Observed rainfall amounts were close to 500 mm in 48 h, being the highest cumulative precipitation registered in some rain-gauges for the last century. Subsequent widespread flash flooding caused seven fatalities and estimated economical losses above 425 million EUR. High-resolution precipitation estimates from weather radar observations and flood response from stream-gauges are used in combination with a fully-distributed hydrological model to examine the main hydrometeorological processes within the HyMeX program. This HPE was characterized by successive, well-organized convective structures that impacted a spatial extent of 7500 km2, with rainfall amounts equal or larger than 200 mm. The main factors driving the flood response were quasi-stationarity of heavy precipitation, very dry initial soil moisture conditions and large storage capacities. Most of the examined catchments exhibited a dampened and delayed hydrological response to cumulative precipitation: Until runoff thresholds were exceeded, infiltration-excess runoff generation did not start. This threshold-based hydrological behaviour may impact the shape of flood peak distributions, hindering strict flood frequency statistical analysis due to the generally limited lengths of data records in arid and semi-arid catchments. As an alternative, simple scaling theory between flood magnitude and total rainfall amount is explored.
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