1Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy
2Utrecht University, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3European Centre for Medium-Ranged Weather Forecast (ECMWF), Reading, UK
4School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
5College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Hohai, China
Abstract. The African Flood Forecasting System (AFFS) is a probabilistic flood forecast system for medium- to large-scale African river basins, with lead times of up to 15 days. The key components are the hydrological model LISFLOOD, the African GIS database, the meteorological ensemble predictions of the ECMWF and critical hydrological thresholds. In this paper the predictive capability is investigated in a hindcast mode, by reproducing hydrological predictions for the year 2003 where important floods were observed. Results were verified with ground measurements of 36 subcatchments as well as with reports of various flood archives. Results showed that AFFS detected around 70% of the reported flood events correctly. In particular, the system showed good performance in predicting riverine flood events of long duration (>1 week) and large affected areas (>10 000 km2) well in advance, whereas AFFS showed limitations for small-scale and short duration flood events. The case study for "Save flooding" illustrated the good performance of AFFS in forecasting timing and severity of the floods, gave an example of the clear and concise output products, and showed that the system is capable of producing flood warnings even in ungauged river basins. Hence, from a technical perspective, AFFS shows a large potential as an operational pan-African flood forecasting system, although issues related to the practical implication will still need to be investigated.