Articles | Volume 21, issue 1
Research article
09 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 09 Jan 2017

Assessing the impact of hydrodynamics on large-scale flood wave propagation – a case study for the Amazon Basin

Jannis M. Hoch, Arjen V. Haag, Arthur van Dam, Hessel C. Winsemius, Ludovicus P. H. van Beek, and Marc F. P. Bierkens

Abstract. Large-scale flood events often show spatial correlation in neighbouring basins, and thus can affect adjacent basins simultaneously, as well as result in superposition of different flood peaks. Such flood events therefore need to be addressed with large-scale modelling approaches to capture these processes. Many approaches currently in place are based on either a hydrologic or a hydrodynamic model. However, the resulting lack of interaction between hydrology and hydrodynamics, for instance, by implementing groundwater infiltration on inundated floodplains, can hamper modelled inundation and discharge results where such interactions are important. In this study, the global hydrologic model PCR-GLOBWB at 30 arcmin spatial resolution was one-directionally and spatially coupled with the hydrodynamic model Delft 3D Flexible Mesh (FM) for the Amazon River basin at a grid-by-grid basis and at a daily time step. The use of a flexible unstructured mesh allows for fine-scale representation of channels and floodplains, while preserving a coarser spatial resolution for less flood-prone areas, thus not unnecessarily increasing computational costs. In addition, we assessed the difference between a 1-D channel/2-D floodplain and a 2-D schematization in Delft 3D FM. Validating modelled discharge results shows that coupling PCR-GLOBWB to a hydrodynamic routing scheme generally increases model performance compared to using a hydrodynamic or hydrologic model only for all validation parameters applied. Closer examination shows that the 1-D/2-D schematization outperforms 2-D for r2 and root mean square error (RMSE) whilst having a lower Kling–Gupta efficiency (KGE). We also found that spatial coupling has the significant advantage of a better representation of inundation at smaller streams throughout the model domain. A validation of simulated inundation extent revealed that only those set-ups incorporating 1-D channels are capable of representing inundations for reaches below the spatial resolution of the 2-D mesh. Implementing 1-D channels is therefore particularly of advantage for large-scale inundation models, as they are often built upon remotely sensed surface elevation data which often enclose a strong vertical bias, hampering downstream connectivity. Since only a one-directional coupling approach was tested, and therefore important feedback processes are not incorporated, simulated discharge and inundation extent for both coupled set-ups is generally overpredicted. Hence, it will be the subsequent step to extend it to a two-directional coupling scheme to obtain a closed feedback loop between hydrologic and hydrodynamic processes. The current findings demonstrating the potential of one-directionally and spatially coupled models to obtain improved discharge estimates form an important step towards a large-scale inundation model with a full dynamic coupling between hydrology and hydrodynamics.

Short summary
Modelling inundations is pivotal to assess current and future flood hazard, and to define sound measures and policies. Yet, many models focus on the hydrologic or hydrodynamic aspect of floods only. We combined both by spatially coupling a hydrologic with a hydrodynamic model. This way we are able to balance the weaknesses of each model with the strengths of the other. We found that model coupling can indeed strongly improve discharge simulation, and see big potential in our approach.