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Calibration of uncertain flood inundation models using remotely sensed water levels

Mason, D. C., Bates, P.D. and Dall'Amico, J.T. (2009) Calibration of uncertain flood inundation models using remotely sensed water levels. Journal of Hydrology, 368 (1-4). pp. 224-236.

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.02.034


A traditional method of validating the performance of a flood model when remotely sensed data of the flood extent are available is to compare the predicted flood extent to that observed. The performance measure employed often uses areal pattern-matching to assess the degree to which the two extents overlap. Recently, remote sensing of flood extents using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and airborne scanning laser altimetry (LIDAR) has made more straightforward the synoptic measurement of water surface elevations along flood waterlines, and this has emphasised the possibility of using alternative performance measures based on height. This paper considers the advantages that can accrue from using a performance measure based on waterline elevations rather than one based on areal patterns of wet and dry pixels. The two measures were compared for their ability to estimate flood inundation uncertainty maps from a set of model runs carried out to span the acceptable model parameter range in a GLUE-based analysis. A 1 in 5-year flood on the Thames in 1992 was used as a test event. As is typical for UK floods, only a single SAR image of observed flood extent was available for model calibration and validation. A simple implementation of a two-dimensional flood model (LISFLOOD-FP) was used to generate model flood extents for comparison with that observed. The performance measure based on height differences of corresponding points along the observed and modelled waterlines was found to be significantly more sensitive to the channel friction parameter than the measure based on areal patterns of flood extent. The former was able to restrict the parameter range of acceptable model runs and hence reduce the number of runs necessary to generate an inundation uncertainty map. A result of this was that there was less uncertainty in the final flood risk map. The uncertainty analysis included the effects of uncertainties in the observed flood extent as well as in model parameters. The height-based measure was found to be more sensitive when increased heighting accuracy was achieved by requiring that observed waterline heights varied slowly along the reach. The technique allows for the decomposition of the reach into sections, with different effective channel friction parameters used in different sections, which in this case resulted in lower r.m.s. height differences between observed and modelled waterlines than those achieved by runs using a single friction parameter for the whole reach. However, a validation of the modelled inundation uncertainty using the calibration event showed a significant difference between the uncertainty map and the observed flood extent. While this was true for both measures, the difference was especially significant for the height-based one. This is likely to be due to the conceptually simple flood inundation model and the coarse application resolution employed in this case. The increased sensitivity of the height-based measure may lead to an increased onus being placed on the model developer in the production of a valid model

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:1514
Uncontrolled Keywords:Flood; Remote sensing; Model; Uncertainty

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