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The 2013/14 Thames basin floods: do improved meteorological forecasts lead to more skilful hydrological forecasts at seasonal timescales?

Neumann, J. ORCID:, Arnal, L., Magnusson, L. and Cloke, H. ORCID: (2018) The 2013/14 Thames basin floods: do improved meteorological forecasts lead to more skilful hydrological forecasts at seasonal timescales? Journal of Hydrometeorology, 19. pp. 1059-1075. ISSN 1525-7541

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-17-0182.1


The Thames basin experienced 12 major Atlantic depressions in winter 2013/14 leading to extensive and prolonged fluvial and groundwater flooding. This exceptional weather coincided with highly anomalous meteorological conditions across the globe. Atmospheric relaxation experiments, whereby conditions within specified regions are relaxed towards a reanalysis, have been used to investigate teleconnection patterns. However, no studies have examined whether improvements to seasonal meteorological forecasts translate into more skilful seasonal hydrological forecasts. This study applied relaxation experiments to reforecast the 2013/14 floods for three Thames basin catchments with different hydrogeological characteristics. The tropics played an important role in the development of extreme conditions over the Thames basin. Greatest hydrological forecasting skill was associated with the tropical Atlantic and less with the tropical Pacific, although both captured seasonal meteorological flow anomalies. Relaxation applied over the north-eastern Atlantic produced confident ensemble forecasts, but hydrological extremes were under-predicted; this was unexpected with relaxation applied so close to the UK. Streamflow was most skilfully forecast for the catchment representing a large drainage area with high peak flow. Permeable lithology and antecedent conditions were important for skilfully forecasting groundwater levels. Atmospheric relaxation experiments can improve our understanding of extratropical anomalies and the potential predictability of extreme events such as the Thames 2013/14 floods. Seasonal hydrological forecasts differed to what was expected from the meteorology alone, thus knowledge is gained by considering both components. In the densely populated Thames basin, considering local hydrogeological context can provide an effective early alert of potential high-impact events, allowing for better preparedness.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:76984
Uncontrolled Keywords:flooding; groundwater; hydrometeorology; river; seasonal forecasting; Thames;
Additional Information:This work was supported and funded by the EU Horizon 2020 IMPREX project ( (641811).
Publisher:American Meteorological Society


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