Articles | Volume 15, issue 12
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3767–3783, 2011
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 15, 3767–3783, 2011

Research article 20 Dec 2011

Research article | 20 Dec 2011

Spatial moments of catchment rainfall: rainfall spatial organisation, basin morphology, and flood response

D. Zoccatelli1, M. Borga1, A. Viglione2, G. B. Chirico3, and G. Blöschl2 D. Zoccatelli et al.
  • 1Department of Land and Agroforest Environment, University of Padova, Italy
  • 2Institut für Wasserbau und Ingenieurhydrologie, Technische Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria
  • 3Dipartimento di Ingegneria Agraria, Università di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy

Abstract. This paper describes a set of spatial rainfall statistics (termed "spatial moments of catchment rainfall") quantifying the dependence existing between spatial rainfall organisation, basin morphology and runoff response. These statistics describe the spatial rainfall organisation in terms of concentration and dispersion statistics as a function of the distance measured along the flow routing coordinate. The introduction of these statistics permits derivation of a simple relationship for the quantification of catchment-scale storm velocity. The concept of the catchment-scale storm velocity takes into account the role of relative catchment orientation and morphology with respect to storm motion and kinematics. The paper illustrates the derivation of the statistics from an analytical framework recently proposed in literature and explains the conceptual meaning of the statistics by applying them to five extreme flash floods occurred in various European regions in the period 2002–2007. High resolution radar rainfall fields and a distributed hydrologic model are employed to examine how effective are these statistics in describing the degree of spatial rainfall organisation which is important for runoff modelling. This is obtained by quantifying the effects of neglecting the spatial rainfall variability on flood modelling, with a focus on runoff timing. The size of the study catchments ranges between 36 to 982 km2. The analysis reported here shows that the spatial moments of catchment rainfall can be effectively employed to isolate and describe the features of rainfall spatial organization which have significant impact on runoff simulation. These statistics provide useful information on what space-time scales rainfall has to be monitored, given certain catchment and flood characteristics, and what are the effects of space-time aggregation on flood response modeling.

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