Setting up a French national flash flood warning system for ungauged catchments based on the AIGA method
1 Irstea, RECOVER, CS 40061, 13182 Aix-en-Provence Cedex 5, France
2 HYDRIS Hydrologie, 5 avenue du Grand Chêne, Saint Mathieu de Tréviers, France
3 Ministère de l’environnement, de l’énergie et de la mer, DGPR/SRNH/SCHAPI, 42, avenue Gaspard Coriolis, 31057 Toulouse Cedex 01, France
a Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Occurring at small temporal and spatial scales, flash floods (FF) can cause severe economic damages and human losses. To better anticipate such events and mitigate their impacts, the French Ministry in charge of Ecology has decided to set up a national FF warning system over the French territory. This automated system will be run by the SCHAPI, the French national service in charge of flood forecasting, providing warnings for fast-responding ungauged catchments (area ranging from ~10 to ~1000 km2). It will therefore be complementary to the SCHAPI’s national “vigilance” system which concerns only gauged catchments. The FF warning system to be implemented in 2017 will be based on a discharge-threshold flood warning method called AIGA (Javelle et al. 2014). This method has been experimented in real time in the south of France in the RHYTMME project (http://rhytmme.irstea.fr). It consists in comparing discharges generated by a simple conceptual hourly hydrologic model run at a 1-km2 resolution to reference flood quantiles of different (e.g., 2-, 10- and 50-year) return periods. Therefore the system characterizes in real time the severity of ongoing events by the range of the return period estimated by AIGA at any point along the river network. The hydrologic model ingests operational rainfall radar-gauge products from Météo-France and takes into account the baseflow and the initial soil humidity conditions to better estimate the basin response to rainfall inputs. To meet the requirements of the future FF warning system, the AIGA method has been extended to the whole French territory (except Corsica and overseas French territories). The calibration, regionalization and validation procedures of the hydrologic model were carried out using data for ~700 hydrometric stations from the 2002-2015 period. Performance of the warning system was evaluated with various contingency criteria (e.g., probability of detection and success rate). Furthermore, specific flood events were analysed in more details, by comparing warnings issued for exceeding different critical flood quantiles and their associated timing with field observations. The performance results show that the proposed FF warning system is useful, especially for ungauged sites. The analysis also points out the need to account for the uncertainties in the precipitation inputs and the hydrological modelling, as well as include precipitation forecasts to improve the effective warning lead time.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2016
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