Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1543–1559, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1543–1559, 2012

Research article 31 May 2012

Research article | 31 May 2012

Extreme flood response to short-duration convective rainfall in South-West Germany

V. Ruiz-Villanueva1, M. Borga2, D. Zoccatelli2, L. Marchi3, E. Gaume4, and U. Ehret5 V. Ruiz-Villanueva et al.
  • 1Department of Research and Geoscientific Prospective, Geological Survey of Spain (IGME), Madrid, Spain
  • 2Dipartimento Territorio e Sistemi Agro-Forestali, Università di Padova, Legnaro, Italy
  • 3CNR IRPI, Padova, Italy
  • 4LUNAM Université, IFSTTAR, GER, 44341 Bouguenais, France
  • 5Institut für Wasser und Gewässerentwicklung, Bereich Hydrologie KIT, Karlsruhe, Germany

Abstract. The 2 June 2008 flood-producing storm on the Starzel river basin in South-West Germany is examined as a prototype for organized convective systems that dominate the upper tail of the precipitation frequency distribution and are likely responsible for the flash flood peaks in Central Europe. The availability of high-resolution rainfall estimates from radar observations and a rain gauge network, together with indirect peak discharge estimates from a detailed post-event survey, provided the opportunity to study in detail the hydrometeorological and hydrological mechanisms associated with this extreme storm and the ensuing flood. Radar-derived rainfall, streamgauge data and indirect estimates of peak discharges are used along with a distributed hydrologic model to reconstruct hydrographs at multiple locations. Observations and model results are combined to examine two main questions, (i) assessment of the distribution of the runoff ratio for the 2008 flash flood and how it compares with other less severe floods; and (ii) analysis of how the spatial and temporal distribution of the extreme rainfall, and more specifically storm motion, controls the flood response. It is shown that small runoff ratios (less than 20%) characterized the runoff response and that these values are in the range of other, less extreme, flood events. The influence of storm structure, evolution and motion on the modeled flood hydrograph is examined by using the "spatial moments of catchment rainfall". It is shown that downbasin storm motion (in the range of 0.7–0.9 m s−1) had a noticeable impact on flood response by increasing the modeled flood peak by 13%.