Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
05 Aug 2013
Research article |  | 05 Aug 2013

Probabilistic flood hazard mapping: effects of uncertain boundary conditions

A. Domeneghetti, S. Vorogushyn, A. Castellarin, B. Merz, and A. Brath

Abstract. Comprehensive flood risk assessment studies should quantify the global uncertainty in flood hazard estimation, for instance by mapping inundation extents together with their confidence intervals. This appears of particular importance in the case of flood hazard assessments along dike-protected reaches, where the possibility of occurrence of dike failures may considerably enhance the uncertainty. We present a methodology to derive probabilistic flood maps in dike-protected flood prone areas, where several sources of uncertainty are taken into account. In particular, this paper focuses on a 50 km reach of River Po (Italy) and three major sources of uncertainty in hydraulic modelling and flood mapping: uncertainties in the (i) upstream and (ii) downstream boundary conditions, and (iii) uncertainties in dike failures. Uncertainties in the definition of upstream boundary conditions (i.e. design-hydrographs) are assessed through a copula-based bivariate analysis of flood peaks and volumes. Uncertainties in the definition of downstream boundary conditions are characterised by uncertainty in the rating curve with confidence intervals which reflect discharge measurement and interpolation errors. The effects of uncertainties in boundary conditions and randomness of dike failures are assessed by means of the Inundation Hazard Assessment Model (IHAM), a recently proposed hybrid probabilistic-deterministic model that considers three different dike failure mechanisms: overtopping, piping and micro-instability due to seepage. The results of the study show that the IHAM-based analysis enables probabilistic flood hazard mapping and provides decision-makers with a fundamental piece of information for devising and implementing flood risk mitigation strategies in the presence of various sources of uncertainty.