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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-100
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-100
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 06 Mar 2019

Research article | 06 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

The role of precipitation for high-magnitude flood generation in a large mountainous catchment (upper Rhône River, NW European Alps)

Florian Raymond, Bruno Wilhelm, and Sandrine Anquetin Florian Raymond et al.
  • Institute for Geosciences and Environmental Research, University Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble-INP*, Grenoble, France

Abstract. High-impact climate events such as floods are highly destructive natural hazards causing widespread impacts on socio-ecosystems. However, processes leading to such events are still poorly understood, which limiting reliable prediction. This study takes advantage of centennial-long discharge series (1923–2010) and meteorological reanalysis (ERA-20C) to study processes generating the high-magnitude flood events (i.e. above the percentile 99.9) of the upper Rhône River (NW European Alps). A particular focus is paid to the role of precipitation on the flood generation to explore in what extent such events could be explained by only atmospheric variables. A flood typology is thus established using a hierarchical clustering analysis and three variables: long (8-day) and short (2-day) precipitation accumulations as well as an index characterizing the amplitude of the discharge increase during the 7 days prior to the flood day. The typology result in four classes, of which two are directly linked to precipitation. One results from heavy precipitation over two days (similar to short-rain floods in the literature) and the other one from a combination of short and long intense precipitation sequences (similar to long-rain floods). The two other types of floods cannot be explained by precipitation only, most probably involving ice and snow melting. The four events of highest magnitude (> 20 year return period) are of various types but are all triggered by heavy precipitation during the days preceding the floods. The role of the precipitation accumulations progressively decreases when considering floods of weaker magnitude, suggesting a higher diversity of processes involved in the generation of e.g. annual flooding. Our results highlight the needs to better understand the atmospheric processes leading to heavy precipitation accumulation since this would allow a better understanding of past and future trends of extreme flood events.

Florian Raymond et al.
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Florian Raymond et al.
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Short summary
We focus on the role of precipitation on the high magnitude flood generation to explore in what extent such events could be explained by only atmospheric variables. The role of the precipitation accumulations prior to the flood day progressively decreases when considering floods of weaker magnitude, suggesting a higher diversity of processes involved in the generation of e.g. annual flooding. Our results open new perspectives for flood hazard assessments directly based on climate model outputs.
We focus on the role of precipitation on the high magnitude flood generation to explore in what...
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