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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-2019-191
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-191
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: education and communication 27 May 2019

Submitted as: education and communication | 27 May 2019

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

Wetropolis extreme rainfall and flood demonstrator: from mathematical design to outreach and research

Onno Bokhove1, Tiffany Hicks1, Wout Zweers2, and Tom Kent1 Onno Bokhove et al.
  • 1School of Mathematics, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT, Leeds, UK
  • 2Wowlab, Enschede, the Netherlands

Abstract. Wetropolis is a transportable table-top demonstration model with extreme rainfall and flooding events. It is a conceptual model with random rainfall, river flow, a flood plain, an upland reservoir, a porous moor, representing the upper catchment and visualising groundwater flow, and a city which can flood following extreme rainfall. Its aim is to let the viewer experience extreme rainfall and flood events in a physical model on reduced spatial and temporal scales. In addition, it conveys concepts of flood storage and control, via manual intervention. To guide the building of an operational Wetropolis, we have explored its spatial and temporal dimensions first in a simplified mathematical design. We explain this mathematical model in detail since it was a crucial step in Wetropolis' design and it is of scientific interest from a hydrodynamic modelling perspective. The key novelty is the supply of rainfall every Wetropolis day (unit wd), varied temporally and spatially in terms of both the amount of rain and the rainfall location. The joint probabilities (rain amount times rain location) are determined daily as one 10 of 16 possible outcomes from two asymmetric Galton boards, in which steel balls fall down every wd, with the most extreme rainfall event involving 90 % rainfall on both moor and reservoir. This occurs with a probability of circa 3 % and – by design – can cause severe floods in the city. This randomised rainfall has a Wetropolis' return period of 6:06min, short enough to wait for but sufficiently extreme or long to get slightly irritated as a viewer. While Wetropolis should be experienced live, here we provide a photographic overview. To date, Wetropolis has been showcased to over 200 flood victims at workshops and 15 exhibitions on recent UK floods, as well as to flood practitioners and scientists at various workshops. To enhance Wetropolis' reach, we analyse and report here how both the general public and professionals interacted with Wetropolis. We conclude with a discussion on some ongoing design changes, including how people can experience natural flood management in a revised Wetropolis design, before highlighting how the Wetropolis experience can stimulate new approaches in hydrological modelling, flood mitigation and control in science, education and water management.

Onno Bokhove et al.
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Short summary
Wetropolis is a table-top demonstration model with extreme rainfall and flooding including random rainfall, river flow, flood plains, an upland reservoir, porous moor and a city which can flood. It lets the viewer experience extreme rainfall and flood events in a physical model on reduced spatial and temporal scales with an event return period of 6.06min rather than, say, 200 years. We disseminate its mathematical design and how it has been shown most prominently to over 200 flood victims.
Wetropolis is a table-top demonstration model with extreme rainfall and flooding including...
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