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Title: Process-based flood frequency analysis in an agricultural watershed exhibiting nonstationary flood seasonality
Abstract. Floods are the product of complex interactions among processes includingprecipitation, soil moisture, and watershed morphology. Conventional floodfrequency analysis (FFA) methods such as design storms and discharge-basedstatistical methods offer few insights into these process interactions andhow they “shape” the probability distributions of floods. Understanding andprojecting flood frequency in conditions of nonstationary hydroclimate andland use require deeper understanding of these processes, some or all ofwhich may be changing in ways that will be undersampled in observationalrecords. This study presents an alternative “process-based” FFA approachthat uses stochastic storm transposition to generate large numbers ofrealistic rainstorm “scenarios” based on relatively short rainfall remotesensing records. Long-term continuous hydrologic model simulations are usedto derive seasonally varying distributions of watershed antecedentconditions. We couple rainstorm scenarios with seasonally appropriateantecedent conditions to simulate flood frequency. The methodology is appliedto the 4002 km2 Turkey River watershed in the Midwestern United States,which is undergoing significant climatic and hydrologic change. We show that,using only 15 years of rainfall records, our methodology can produce accurateestimates of “present-day” flood frequency. We found that shifts in theseasonality of soil moisture, snow, and extreme rainfall in the Turkey Riverexert important controls on flood frequency. We also demonstrate thatprocess-based techniques may be prone to errors due to inadequaterepresentation more » of specific seasonal processes within hydrologic models. Ifsuch mistakes are avoided, however, process-based approaches can provide auseful pathway toward understanding current and future flood frequency innonstationary conditions and thus be valuable for supplementing existing FFApractices. « less
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
2225 to 2243
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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