Articles | Volume 17, issue 6
Research article
27 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 27 Jun 2013

Characterization of process-oriented hydrologic model behavior with temporal sensitivity analysis for flash floods in Mediterranean catchments

P. A. Garambois, H. Roux, K. Larnier, W. Castaings, and D. Dartus

Abstract. This paper presents a detailed analysis of 10 flash flood events in the Mediterranean region using the distributed hydrological model MARINE. Characterizing catchment response during flash flood events may provide new and valuable insight into the dynamics involved for extreme catchment response and their dependency on physiographic properties and flood severity. The main objective of this study is to analyze flash-flood-dedicated hydrologic model sensitivity with a new approach in hydrology, allowing model outputs variance decomposition for temporal patterns of parameter sensitivity analysis. Such approaches enable ranking of uncertainty sources for nonlinear and nonmonotonic mappings with a low computational cost. Hydrologic model and sensitivity analysis are used as learning tools on a large flash flood dataset. With Nash performances above 0.73 on average for this extended set of 10 validation events, the five sensitive parameters of MARINE process-oriented distributed model are analyzed. This contribution shows that soil depth explains more than 80% of model output variance when most hydrographs are peaking. Moreover, the lateral subsurface transfer is responsible for 80% of model variance for some catchment-flood events' hydrographs during slow-declining limbs. The unexplained variance of model output representing interactions between parameters reveals to be very low during modeled flood peaks and informs that model-parsimonious parameterization is appropriate to tackle the problem of flash floods. Interactions observed after model initialization or rainfall intensity peaks incite to improve water partition representation between flow components and initialization itself. This paper gives a practical framework for application of this method to other models, landscapes and climatic conditions, potentially helping to improve processes understanding and representation.