Articles | Volume 29
01 Mar 2011
 | 01 Mar 2011

Flash flood detection through a multi-stage probabilistic warning system for heavy precipitation events

L. Alfieri, D. Velasco, and J. Thielen

Abstract. The deadly combination of short to no warning lead times and the vulnerability of urbanized areas makes flash flood events extremely dangerous for the modern society. This paper contributes to flash flood early warning by proposing a multi-stage warning system for heavy precipitation events based on threshold exceedances within a probabilistic framework. It makes use of meteorological products at different resolutions, namely, numerical weather predictions (NWP), radar-NWP blending, and radar nowcasting. The system is composed by two main modules. First, a European Precipitation Index based on a simulated Climatology (EPIC) and probabilistic weather forecasts is calculated to pinpoint catchments at risk of upcoming heavy precipitation. Then, a Probabilistic Flash Flood Guidance System (PFFGS) is activated at the regional scale and uses more accurate input data to reduce the estimation uncertainty.

The system is tested for a high flow event occurred in Catalonia (Spain) in November 2008 and results from the different meteorological input data are compared and discussed. The strength of coupling the two systems is shown in its ability to detect areas potentially at risk of severe meteorological conditions and then monitoring the evolution by providing more accurate information with higher spatial-temporal resolution as the event approaches.