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Mapping Flash Flood Severity in the United States

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  • 1 School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 2 Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 Advanced Radar Research Center, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 4 NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 5 Department of Risk and Crises Management, École des Mines d’Alès, Alès, France
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Abstract

Flash floods, a subset of floods, are a particularly damaging natural hazard worldwide because of their multidisciplinary nature, difficulty in forecasting, and fast onset that limits emergency responses. In this study, a new variable called “flashiness” is introduced as a measure of flood severity. This work utilizes a representative and long archive of flooding events spanning 78 years to map flash flood severity, as quantified by the flashiness variable. Flood severity is then modeled as a function of a large number of geomorphological and climatological variables, which is then used to extend and regionalize the flashiness variable from gauged basins to a high-resolution grid covering the conterminous United States. Six flash flood “hotspots” are identified and additional analysis is presented on the seasonality of flash flooding. The findings from this study are then compared to other related datasets in the United States, including National Weather Service storm reports and a historical flood fatalities database.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author e-mail: Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter, pierre.kirstetter@noaa.gov

Abstract

Flash floods, a subset of floods, are a particularly damaging natural hazard worldwide because of their multidisciplinary nature, difficulty in forecasting, and fast onset that limits emergency responses. In this study, a new variable called “flashiness” is introduced as a measure of flood severity. This work utilizes a representative and long archive of flooding events spanning 78 years to map flash flood severity, as quantified by the flashiness variable. Flood severity is then modeled as a function of a large number of geomorphological and climatological variables, which is then used to extend and regionalize the flashiness variable from gauged basins to a high-resolution grid covering the conterminous United States. Six flash flood “hotspots” are identified and additional analysis is presented on the seasonality of flash flooding. The findings from this study are then compared to other related datasets in the United States, including National Weather Service storm reports and a historical flood fatalities database.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author e-mail: Pierre-Emmanuel Kirstetter, pierre.kirstetter@noaa.gov
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