An empirical method for estimating future flood risks for flood warnings
Abstract. Since medium and long-term precipitation forecasts are still not reliable enough, rough estimates of the degree of the extremity of forthcoming flood events that might occur in the course of dangerous meteorological situations approaching a basin could be useful to decision-makers as additional information for flood warnings. One approach to answering such a problem is to use real-time data on the soil moisture conditions in a catchment in conjunction with estimates of the extremity of the future rainfall and experience with the basin's behaviour during historical floods. A scenario-based method is proposed for such a future flood risk estimation, based on an a priori evaluation of the extremity of hypothetical floods generated by combinations of synthetic extreme precipitation and previously observed antecedent pre-flood basin saturations. The Hron river basin, located in central Slovakia, was chosen as the pilot basin in the case study. A time series of the basin's average daily precipitation was derived using spatial interpolation techniques. A lumped HBV-type daily conceptual rainfall-runoff model was adopted for modelling runoff. Analysis of the relationship of the modelled historical pre-flood soil moisture and flood causing-precipitation revealed the independence of both quantities for rainfall durations lasting 1 to 5 days. The basin's average annual maximum 1 to 5 day precipitation depths were analysed statistically and synthetic extreme precipitation scenarios associated with rainfall depths with return periods of 5, 20, 50 and 100 years, durations of 1 to 5 days and temporal distribution of extreme rainfall observed in the past were set up for runoff simulation. Using event-based flood simulations, synthetic flood waves were generated for random combinations of the rainfall scenarios and historical pre-flood soil moisture conditions. The effect of any antecedent basin saturation on the extremity of floods was quantified empirically and critical values of the basin saturation leading to floods with a higher return period than the return period of precipitation were identified. A method for implementing such critical values into flood risk warnings in a hydrological forecasting and warning system in the basin was suggested.