Articles | Volume 16, issue 11
Research article
23 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 23 Nov 2012

Estimation of antecedent wetness conditions for flood modelling in northern Morocco

Y. Tramblay, R. Bouaicha, L. Brocca, W. Dorigo, C. Bouvier, S. Camici, and E. Servat

Abstract. In northern Morocco are located most of the dams and reservoirs of the country, while this region is affected by severe rainfall events causing floods. To improve the management of the water regulation structures, there is a need to develop rainfall–runoff models to both maximize the storage capacity and reduce the risks caused by floods. In this study, a model is developed to reproduce the flood events for a 655 km2 catchment located upstream of the 6th largest dam in Morocco. Constrained by data availability, a standard event-based model combining a SCS-CN (Soil Conservation Service Curve Number) loss model and a Clark unit hydrograph was developed for hourly discharge simulation using 16 flood events that occurred between 1984 and 2008. The model was found satisfactory to reproduce the runoff and the temporal evolution of floods, even with limited rainfall data. Several antecedent wetness conditions estimators for the catchment were compared with the initial condition of the model. Theses estimators include an antecedent discharge index, an antecedent precipitation index and a continuous daily soil moisture accounting model (SMA), based on precipitation and evapotranspiration. The SMA model performed the best to estimate the initial conditions of the event-based hydrological model (R2 = 0.9). Its daily output has been compared with ASCAT and AMSR-E remote sensing data products, which were both able to reproduce with accuracy the daily simulated soil moisture dynamics at the catchment scale. This same approach could be implemented in other catchments of this region for operational purposes. The results of this study suggest that remote sensing data are potentially useful to estimate the soil moisture conditions in the case of ungauged catchments in Northern Africa.