Multi-Sourced Flood Inventories over the Contiguous United States for Actual and Natural Conditions

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  • 1 School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, and Key Laboratory of Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean System, Ministry of Education, and Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai, China
  • 2 Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster Studies, Zhuhai, China
  • 3 Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
  • 4 DFO - Flood Observatory, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 5 Remote Sensing Solutions, Inc., Barnstable, MA, USA
  • 6 School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 7 NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma, USA
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Abstract

A reliable flood event inventory that reflects the occurrence and evolution of past floods is important for studies of flood hazards and risks, hydroclimatic extremes, and future flood projections. However, currently-available flood inventories are based on single-sourced data and often neglect underreported or less impactful flood events. Furthermore, traditional archives store flood events only at sparse geographic points, which significantly limits their further applicability. Also, few publicly available archives contain all-inclusive records of potential natural flooded area over time.

To tackle these challenges, we construct two types of multi-sourced flood event inventories (MFI) for all river basins across the contiguous United States covering the period 1998-2013 on daily and sub-catchment scales, which is publicly available at http://flood.umd.edu/download/CONUS/. These archives integrate flood information from in-situ observations, remote-sensing observations, hydrological model simulations, and five high quality precipitation products. The first inventory (MFI-Actual) includes all actual floods that occurred in the presence of flood protection infrastructures, while the second, “natural (undefended)” inventory (MFI-Natural) reconstructs the possible “historical” floods without flood protection, which could be more directly influenced by climate variation. In the proposed two inventories, 2,755 and 4,661 flood events were estimated, respectively. MFI-Natural reconstructed 1,597 floods in ungauged basins, and recovered 608 extreme streamflow events in gauged sub-catchments where floods would have happened if there were no flood protection. There is an average of four upstream 44 dams located in these flood-recovered sub-catchments, which indicates that modern flood defenses efficiently prevent significant flooding from extreme precipitation in many catchments over the country.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Huan Wu, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275, P. R. China. Email: wuhuan3@mail.sysu.edu.cn

Abstract

A reliable flood event inventory that reflects the occurrence and evolution of past floods is important for studies of flood hazards and risks, hydroclimatic extremes, and future flood projections. However, currently-available flood inventories are based on single-sourced data and often neglect underreported or less impactful flood events. Furthermore, traditional archives store flood events only at sparse geographic points, which significantly limits their further applicability. Also, few publicly available archives contain all-inclusive records of potential natural flooded area over time.

To tackle these challenges, we construct two types of multi-sourced flood event inventories (MFI) for all river basins across the contiguous United States covering the period 1998-2013 on daily and sub-catchment scales, which is publicly available at http://flood.umd.edu/download/CONUS/. These archives integrate flood information from in-situ observations, remote-sensing observations, hydrological model simulations, and five high quality precipitation products. The first inventory (MFI-Actual) includes all actual floods that occurred in the presence of flood protection infrastructures, while the second, “natural (undefended)” inventory (MFI-Natural) reconstructs the possible “historical” floods without flood protection, which could be more directly influenced by climate variation. In the proposed two inventories, 2,755 and 4,661 flood events were estimated, respectively. MFI-Natural reconstructed 1,597 floods in ungauged basins, and recovered 608 extreme streamflow events in gauged sub-catchments where floods would have happened if there were no flood protection. There is an average of four upstream 44 dams located in these flood-recovered sub-catchments, which indicates that modern flood defenses efficiently prevent significant flooding from extreme precipitation in many catchments over the country.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Huan Wu, School of Atmospheric Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510275, P. R. China. Email: wuhuan3@mail.sysu.edu.cn
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