19 Sep 2023
 | 19 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Flash Flood Detection via Copula-based IDF Curves: Evidence from Jamaica

Dino Collalti, Nekeisha Spencer, and Eric Strobl

Abstract. Extreme rainfall events frequently cause hazardous floods in many parts of the world. With growing human exposure to floods, studying conditions that trigger floods is imperative. Flash floods, in particular, require well-defined models for the timely warning of the population at risk. Intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) curves are a common way to characterize rainfall and flood events. Here, the copula method is employed to model the dependence between the intensity and duration of rainfall events separately and flexibly from their respective marginal distribution. Information about the localization of 93 flash floods in Jamaica was gathered and linked to remote-sensing rainfall data and additional data on location-specific yearly maximum rainfall events was constructed. The estimated Normal copula has Weibull and generalized extreme value (GEV) marginals for duration and intensity, respectively. Due to the two samples, it is possible to pin down above which line in the intensity duration space a rainfall event likely triggers a flash flood. The parametric IDF curve with an associated return period of 2.17 years is determined as the optimal threshold for flash flood event classification. This methodology delivers a flexible approach to generating rainfall IDF curves that can directly be used to assess flash flood risk.

Dino Collalti et al.

Status: open (until 31 Oct 2023)

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Dino Collalti et al.

Dino Collalti et al.


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Short summary
The risk of extreme rainfall events causing floods is likely increasing with climate change. Flash floods, which follow immediately after extreme rainfall, are particularly difficult to forecast and assess. We develop a decision rule for flash flood classification with data on all incidents between 2001 and 2018 in Jamaica with the statistical copula method. This decision rule tells us for any rainfall event of a certain duration how intense it has to be to likely trigger a flash flood.