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Felipe Quintero, Witold F. Krajewski, Ricardo Mantilla, Scott Small, and Bong-Chul Seo

Abstract

Rainfall maps that are derived from satellite observations provide hydrologists with an unprecedented opportunity to forecast floods globally. However, the limitations of using these precipitation estimates with respect to producing reliable flood forecasts at multiple scales are not well understood. To address the scientific and practical question of applicability of space-based rainfall products for global flood forecasting, a data evaluation framework is developed that allows tracking the rainfall effects in space and time across scales in the river network. This provides insights on the effects of rainfall product resolution and uncertainty. Obtaining such insights is not possible when the hydrologic evaluation is based on discharge observations from single gauges. The proposed framework also explores the ability of hydrologic model structure to answer questions pertaining to the utility of space-based rainfall observations for flood forecasting. To illustrate the framework, hydrometeorological data collected during the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) campaign in Iowa are used to perform a hydrologic simulation using two different rainfall–runoff model structures and three rainfall products, two of which are radar based [stage IV and Iowa Flood Center (IFC)] and one satellite based [TMPA–Research Version (RV)]. This allows for exploring the differences in rainfall estimates at several spatial and temporal scales and provides improved understanding of how these differences affect flood predictions at multiple basin scales. The framework allows for exploring the differences in peak flow estimation due to nonlinearities in the hydrologic model structure and determining how these differences behave with an increase in the upstream area through the drainage network. The framework provides an alternative evaluation of precipitation estimates, based on the diagnostics of hydrological model results.

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Witold F. Krajewski, Daniel Ceynar, Ibrahim Demir, Radoslaw Goska, Anton Kruger, Carmen Langel, Ricardo Mantilla, James Niemeier, Felipe Quintero, Bong-Chul Seo, Scott J. Small, Larry J. Weber, and Nathan C. Young

Abstract

The Iowa Flood Center (IFC), established following the 2008 record floods, has developed a real-time flood forecasting and information dissemination system for use by all Iowans. The system complements the operational forecasting issued by the National Weather Service, is based on sound scientific principles of flood genesis and spatial organization, and includes many technological advances. At its core is a continuous rainfall–runoff model based on landscape decomposition into hillslopes and channel links. Rainfall conversion to runoff is modeled through soil moisture accounting at hillslopes. Channel routing is based on a nonlinear representation of water velocity that considers the discharge amount as well as the upstream drainage area. Mathematically, the model represents a large system of ordinary differential equations organized to follow river network topology. The IFC also developed an efficient numerical solver suitable for high-performance computing architecture. The solver allows the IFC to update forecasts every 15 min for over 1,000 Iowa communities. The input to the system comes from a radar-rainfall algorithm, developed in-house, that maps rainfall every 5 min with high spatial resolution. The algorithm uses Level II radar reflectivity and other polarimetric data from the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Dual-Polarimetric (WSR-88DP) radar network. A large library of flood inundation maps and real-time river stage data from over 200 IFC “stream-stage sensors” complement the IFC information system. The system communicates all this information to the general public through a comprehensive browser-based and interactive platform. Streamflow forecasts and observations from Iowa can provide support for a similar system being developed at the National Water Center through model intercomparisons, diagnostic analyses, and product evaluations.

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