Scaling of Floods with Geomorphologic Characteristics and Precipitation Variability across the conterminous United States

Nasser Najibi, Naresh Devineni


Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Regional and Global Model Analysis


Accurate flood risk assessment requires a comprehensive understanding of flood sensitivity to regional drivers and climate factors. This paper presents the scaling of floods (duration, peak, volume) with geomorphologic characteristics of the basin (i.e., drainage area, slope, elevation) and precipitation patterns (rainfall accumulation, variability). Long-term daily streamflow observations over the 20th and early 21st centuries from Hydro-Climatic Data Network streamgages across the conterminous United States are used to create a flood event database based on their flood stage information. Antecedent daily rainfall accumulation and variability corresponding to these floods are computed using Global Historical Climatology Network daily data set. Two Bayesian scaling models are developed, and the spatial organization of scaling exponents is investigated. The baseline model quantifies the scaling of floods to geomorphologic characteristics. The dynamic model quantifies the scaling of floods to antecedent precipitation distribution which is further conditioned on geomorphologic characteristics. Results show that small and low-elevation basins have a stronger response to antecedent rainfall distribution in amplifying flood peaks, while high-elevation steeper basins have a lower response for flood duration and volume. The dynamic models demonstrate that there are significant variations in the flood scaling rates, with the largest rates up to 40% and 4.5% for flood duration, 64% and 44% for peak, and 98% and 40% for volume found across the Northeast, Coastal Southeast, and Northwest with intensifying rainfall accumulation and variability, respectively. This study advances flood predictions by better informing the flood attributes in the context of dynamical land-atmosphere perturbations.

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