• flood risk mapping;
  • flood inundation modelling;
  • diffusion wave;
  • one-dimensional models;


A much understudied aspect of flood inundation is examined, i.e. upland environments with topographically complex floodplains. Although the presence of high-resolution topographic data (e.g. lidar) has improved the quality of river flood inundation predictions, the optimum dimensionality of hydraulic models for this purpose has yet to be fully evaluated for situations of both topographic and topological (i.e. the connectivity of floodplain features) complexity. In this paper, we present the comparison of three treatments of upland flood inundation using: (a) a one-dimensional (1D) model (HEC-RAS v. 3·1·2) with the domain defined as series of extended cross-sections; (b) the same 1D model, but with the floodplain defined by a series of storage cells, hydraulically connected to the main river channel and other storage cells on the floodplain according to floodplain topological characteristics; (c) a two-dimensional (2D) diffusion wave treatment, again with explicit representation of floodplain structural features. The necessary topographic and topological data were derived using lidar and Ordnance Survey Landline data. The three models were tested on a 6 km upland reach of the River Wharfe, UK. The models were assessed by comparison with measured inundation extent. The results showed that both the extended cross-section and the storage cell 1D modes were conceptually problematic. They also resulted in poorer model predictions, requiring incorrect parameterization of the main river to floodplain flux in order to approach anything like the level of agreement observed when the 2D diffusion wave treatment was assessed. We conclude that a coupled 1D–2D treatment is likely to provide the best modelling approach, with currently available technology, for complex floodplain configurations. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.