A Geographic Primitive-Based Bayesian Framework to Predict Cyclone-Induced Flooding

Isuri Wijesundera Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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Malka N. Halgamuge Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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Thas Nirmalathas Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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Thrishantha Nanayakkara Department of Informatics, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom

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Abstract

The effectiveness of managing cyclone-induced floods is highly dependent on how fast reasonably accurate predictions can be made, which is a particularly difficult task given the multitude of highly variable physical factors. Even with supercomputers, collecting and processing vast amounts of data from numerous asynchronous sources makes it challenging to achieve high prediction efficiency. This paper presents a model that combines prior knowledge, including rainfall data statistics and topographical features, with any new precipitation data to generate a probabilistic prediction using Bayesian learning, where the advantages of data-oriented and heuristic modeling are combined. The terrain is partitioned into geographic primitives (GPs) based on manual inspection of flood propagation vector fields in order to simplify the stochastic system identification. High calculation efficiency is achieved through statistically summarizing simultaneous events spread across geography into primitives, allowing a distributed updating algorithm leading to parallel computing. Markov chain processes identified for each of these GPs, based on both simulation and measured rainfall data, are then used in real-time predictions of water flow probabilities. The model takes a comprehensive approach, which enables flood prediction even before the landfall of a cyclone through modularizing the algorithm into three prediction steps: cyclone path, rainfall probability density distribution, and temporal dynamics of flood density distribution. Results of comparative studies based on real data of two cyclones (Yasi and Tasha) that made landfall in Queensland, Australia, in 2010/11 show that the model is capable of predicting up to 3 h ahead of the official forecast, with a 33% improvement of accuracy compared to the models presently being used.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-12-040.s1.

Corresponding author address: Isuri Wijesundera, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia. E-mail: isuriw@student.unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

The effectiveness of managing cyclone-induced floods is highly dependent on how fast reasonably accurate predictions can be made, which is a particularly difficult task given the multitude of highly variable physical factors. Even with supercomputers, collecting and processing vast amounts of data from numerous asynchronous sources makes it challenging to achieve high prediction efficiency. This paper presents a model that combines prior knowledge, including rainfall data statistics and topographical features, with any new precipitation data to generate a probabilistic prediction using Bayesian learning, where the advantages of data-oriented and heuristic modeling are combined. The terrain is partitioned into geographic primitives (GPs) based on manual inspection of flood propagation vector fields in order to simplify the stochastic system identification. High calculation efficiency is achieved through statistically summarizing simultaneous events spread across geography into primitives, allowing a distributed updating algorithm leading to parallel computing. Markov chain processes identified for each of these GPs, based on both simulation and measured rainfall data, are then used in real-time predictions of water flow probabilities. The model takes a comprehensive approach, which enables flood prediction even before the landfall of a cyclone through modularizing the algorithm into three prediction steps: cyclone path, rainfall probability density distribution, and temporal dynamics of flood density distribution. Results of comparative studies based on real data of two cyclones (Yasi and Tasha) that made landfall in Queensland, Australia, in 2010/11 show that the model is capable of predicting up to 3 h ahead of the official forecast, with a 33% improvement of accuracy compared to the models presently being used.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-12-040.s1.

Corresponding author address: Isuri Wijesundera, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia. E-mail: isuriw@student.unimelb.edu.au
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