Articles | Volume 19, issue 2
Research article
04 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 04 Feb 2015

On the sensitivity of urban hydrodynamic modelling to rainfall spatial and temporal resolution

G. Bruni, R. Reinoso, N. C. van de Giesen, F. H. L. R. Clemens, and J. A. E. ten Veldhuis

Abstract. Cities are increasingly vulnerable to floods generated by intense rainfall, because of urbanisation of flood-prone areas and ongoing urban densification. Accurate information of convective storm characteristics at high spatial and temporal resolution is a crucial input for urban hydrological models to be able to simulate fast runoff processes and enhance flood prediction in cities. In this paper, a detailed study of the sensitivity of urban hydrodynamic response to high resolution radar rainfall was conducted. Rainfall rates derived from X-band dual polarimetric weather radar were used as input into a detailed hydrodynamic sewer model for an urban catchment in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The aim was to characterise how the effect of space and time aggregation on rainfall structure affects hydrodynamic modelling of urban catchments, for resolutions ranging from 100 to 2000 m and from 1 to 10 min. Dimensionless parameters were derived to compare results between different storm conditions and to describe the effect of rainfall spatial resolution in relation to storm characteristics and hydrodynamic model properties: rainfall sampling number (rainfall resolution vs. storm size), catchment sampling number (rainfall resolution vs. catchment size), runoff and sewer sampling number (rainfall resolution vs. runoff and sewer model resolution respectively).

Results show that for rainfall resolution lower than half the catchment size, rainfall volumes mean and standard deviations decrease as a result of smoothing of rainfall gradients. Moreover, deviations in maximum water depths, from 10 to 30% depending on the storm, occurred for rainfall resolution close to storm size, as a result of rainfall aggregation. Model results also showed that modelled runoff peaks are more sensitive to rainfall resolution than maximum in-sewer water depths as flow routing has a damping effect on in-sewer water level variations. Temporal resolution aggregation of rainfall inputs led to increase in de-correlation lengths and resulted in time shift in modelled flow peaks by several minutes. Sensitivity to temporal resolution of rainfall inputs was low compared to spatial resolution, for the storms analysed in this study.