Flood frequency hydrology: 1. Temporal, spatial, and causal expansion of information

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Abstract

[1] The hydrological literature on flood frequency analysis in the past has placed undue emphasis on solving the estimation problem. In this paper we argue that much better use should be made of the wealth of hydrological knowledge gained in the past century and that it is essential to expand the information beyond the flood sample at the site of interest. We suggest that the expansion of information can be grouped into three types: temporal, spatial, and causal. We present a number of examples from Austria to illustrate the rich diversity of flood processes that are often site specific and difficult to capture by formal methods. On the basis of these examples, and the expansion of information, we illustrate that hydrological reasoning can provide diagnostic findings that give guidance on how to adjust quantitative estimates from formal methods to more fully capture the subtleties of the flood characteristics at the site of interest. We believe that this approach gives a more complete representation of flood processes at a given site than the existing formal methods alone and propose the term “flood frequency hydrology,” as opposed to flood frequency statistics, to reflect the focus on hydrological processes and hydrological reasoning.

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