Articles | Volume 44
Adv. Geosci., 44, 79–88, 2017
Adv. Geosci., 44, 79–88, 2017

  07 Sep 2017

07 Sep 2017

Flood and landslide warning based on rainfall thresholds and soil moisture indexes: the HEWS (Hydrohazards Early Warning System) for Sicily

Giuseppina Brigandì1, Giuseppe Tito Aronica1, Brunella Bonaccorso1, Roberto Gueli1, and Giuseppe Basile2 Giuseppina Brigandì et al.
  • 1Department of Engineering, University of Messina, 98168 Messina, Italy
  • 2Regional Civil Protection Department of Sicily, 90141 Palermo, Italy

Abstract. The main focus of the paper is to present a flood and landslide early warning system, named HEWS (Hydrohazards Early Warning System), specifically developed for the Civil Protection Department of Sicily, based on the combined use of rainfall thresholds, soil moisture modelling and quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF).

The warning system is referred to 9 different Alert Zones in which Sicily has been divided into and based on a threshold system of three different increasing critical levels: ordinary, moderate and high.

In this system, for early flood warning, a Soil Moisture Accounting (SMA) model provides daily soil moisture conditions, which allow to select a specific set of three rainfall thresholds, one for each critical level considered, to be used for issue the alert bulletin.

Wetness indexes, representative of the soil moisture conditions of a catchment, are calculated using a simple, spatially-lumped rainfall–streamflow model, based on the SCS-CN method, and on the unit hydrograph approach, that require daily observed and/or predicted rainfall, and temperature data as input. For the calibration of this model daily continuous time series of rainfall, streamflow and air temperature data are used.

An event based lumped rainfall–runoff model has been, instead, used for the derivation of the rainfall thresholds for each catchment in Sicily characterised by an area larger than 50 km2. In particular, a Kinematic Instantaneous Unit Hydrograph based lumped rainfall–runoff model with the SCS-CN routine for net rainfall was developed for this purpose.

For rainfall-induced shallow landslide warning, empirical rainfall thresholds provided by Gariano et al. (2015) have been included in the system. They were derived on an empirical basis starting from a catalogue of 265 shallow landslides in Sicily in the period 2002–2012.

Finally, Delft-FEWS operational forecasting platform has been applied to link input data, SMA model and rainfall threshold models to produce warning on a daily basis for the entire region.

Short summary
The paper presents the flood and landslide early warning system HEWS developed by the University of Messina for the Integrated Multi-Risk Decentralised Functional Centre of Sicily (Italy). HEWS implements a methodology based on the combined use of rainfall thresholds, soil moisture modelling and quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) to issue alert bulletins both for floods and landslide. The software Delft-FEWS has been adopted as operation platform to support the implementation of HEWS.