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Water Resources Research

A first large-scale flood inundation forecasting model

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Abstract

[1] At present continental to global scale flood forecasting predicts at a point discharge, with little attention to detail and accuracy of local scale inundation predictions. Yet, inundation variables are of interest and all flood impacts are inherently local in nature. This paper proposes a large-scale flood inundation ensemble forecasting model that uses best available data and modeling approaches in data scarce areas. The model was built for the Lower Zambezi River to demonstrate current flood inundation forecasting capabilities in large data-scarce regions. ECMWF ensemble forecast (ENS) data were used to force the VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) hydrologic model, which simulated and routed daily flows to the input boundary locations of a 2-D hydrodynamic model. Efficient hydrodynamic modeling over large areas still requires model grid resolutions that are typically larger than the width of channels that play a key role in flood wave propagation. We therefore employed a novel subgrid channel scheme to describe the river network in detail while representing the floodplain at an appropriate scale. The modeling system was calibrated using channel water levels from satellite laser altimetry and then applied to predict the February 2007 Mozambique floods. Model evaluation showed that simulated flood edge cells were within a distance of between one and two model resolutions compared to an observed flood edge and inundation area agreement was on average 86%. Our study highlights that physically plausible parameter values and satisfactory performance can be achieved at spatial scales ranging from tens to several hundreds of thousands of km2 and at model grid resolutions up to several km2.

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