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Title: A first large-scale flood inundation forecasting model

At present continental to global scale flood forecasting focusses on predicting at a point discharge, with little attention to the detail and accuracy of local scale inundation predictions. Yet, inundation is actually the variable of interest and all flood impacts are inherently local in nature. This paper proposes a first large scale flood inundation ensemble forecasting model that uses best available data and modeling approaches in data scarce areas and at continental scales. The model was built for the Lower Zambezi River in southeast Africa to demonstrate current flood inundation forecasting capabilities in large data-scarce regions. The inundation model domain has a surface area of approximately 170k km2. ECMWF meteorological data were used to force the VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) macro-scale hydrological model which simulated and routed daily flows to the input boundary locations of the 2-D hydrodynamic model. Efficient hydrodynamic modeling over large areas still requires model grid resolutions that are typically larger than the width of many river channels that play a key a role in flood wave propagation. We therefore employed a novel sub-grid channel scheme to describe the river network in detail whilst at the same time representing the floodplain at an appropriate and efficient scale.more » The modeling system was first calibrated using water levels on the main channel from the ICESat (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite) laser altimeter and then applied to predict the February 2007 Mozambique floods. Model evaluation showed that simulated flood edge cells were within a distance of about 1 km (one model resolution) compared to an observed flood edge of the event. Our study highlights that physically plausible parameter values and satisfactory performance can be achieved at spatial scales ranging from tens to several hundreds of thousands of km2 and at model grid resolutions up to several km2. However, initial model test runs in forecast mode revealed that it is crucial to account for basin-wide hydrological response time when assessing lead time performances notwithstanding structural limitations in the hydrological model and possibly large inaccuracies in precipitation data.« less
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Water Resources Research, 49(10):6248-6257
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
hydrodynamic, hydrology, forecast, flood inundation, modeling