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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 03 Feb 2020

Submitted as: research article | 03 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Frequency and magnitude variability of Yalu River flooding: Numerical analyses for the last 1000 years

Hui Sheng1, Jian Hua Gao2, Albert J. Kettner3, Yong Shi2, Chengfeng Xue1, Ya Ping Wang1, and Shu Gao1 Hui Sheng et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, School of Marine Sciences East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • 2School of Geography and Ocean Science, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Coast and Island Development, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  • 3CSDMS Integration Facility, INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0545, USA

Abstract. Accurate determination of past flooding characteristics is necessary to effectively predict future flood disaster risk and the dominant controls. However, understanding the role of environmental forcing on past flooding frequency and magnitude is difficult due to the deficiency of observations and too short measurement time series. Here, a numerical model HydroTrend, that generates synthetic time series of daily water discharge at a river outlet, is applied to Yalu River to: (1) reconstruct annual peak discharges over the past 1000 years and estimate flood annual exceedance probabilities; (2) identify and quantify the impacts of climate change and human activity (runoff yield induced by deforestation and dam retention) on the flooding frequency and magnitude. Climate data obtained from meteorological stations and ECHO-G climate model output, morphological characteristics (hypsometry, drainage area, River length, slope and Lapse rate) and hydrological properties (groundwater properties, canopy interception effects, cascade reservoirs retention effect and saturated hydraulic conductivity) are form the significant reliable model inputs. Monitored for decades and some proxies on ancient floods allow for accurate calibration and validation of numerical modeling.

Simulations match well present-day monitored data (1958–2012) and historical flood events literature records (1000–1958). They indicate that flood frequencies of Yalu River increased during AD 1000–1940, followed by a decrease until the present day. Frequency trends were strongly modulated by climate variability, particularly by intensity and frequency of rainfall events. The magnitudes of larger floods, events with a return period of 50 to 100 years, increased by 19.1 and 13.9 %, respectively, due to climate variability over the last millennium. Anthropogenic processes were found to either enhance or reduce flooding, depending on the type of the human activities. Deforestation increased the magnitude of larger floods by 19.2–20.3 %, but the construction of cascade reservoirs in AD 1940 significantly reduced their magnitude by 36.7 to 41.7 %. We conclude that under intensified climate change and human activity in the future, effective river engineering should be considered, particularly for small and medium-sized mountainous river systems, which are at higher risk of flood disasters due to their relatively poor capacity for hydrological regulation.

Hui Sheng et al.

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Latest update: 18 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper investigates the variability of past flooding through applying numerical model coupled with historical records of regional climate and anthropogenic activity under the deficiency of observations. We conclude that trends in flooding frequency were predominantly modulated by the intensity and frequency of extreme rainfall events which highlights the need for the implementation of effective river engineering measures to counteract increasing flood risks as a result of future.
This paper investigates the variability of past flooding through applying numerical model...