A physically based description of floodplain inundation dynamics in a global river routing model

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Abstract

[1] Current global river routing models do not represent floodplain inundation dynamics realistically because the storage and movement of surface waters are regulated by small-scale topography rather than the commonly used spatial resolution of global models. In this study, we propose a new global river routing model, CaMa-Flood, which explicitly parameterizes the subgrid-scale topography of a floodplain, thus describing floodplain inundation dynamics. The relationship between water storage, water level, and flooded area in the model is decided on the basis of the subgrid-scale topographic parameters based on 1 km resolution digital elevation model. Horizontal water transport is calculated with a diffusive wave equation, which realizes the backwater effect in flat river basins. A set of global-scale river flow simulations demonstrated an improved predictability of daily-scale river discharge in many major world rivers by incorporating the floodplain inundation dynamics. Detailed analysis of the simulated results for the Amazon River suggested that introduction of the diffusive wave equation is essential for simulating water surface elevation realistically. The simulated spatiotemporal variation of the flooded area in the Amazon basin showed a good correlation with satellite observations, especially when the backwater effect was considered. The improved predictability for daily river discharge, water surface elevation, and inundated areas by the proposed model will promote climate system studies and water resource assessments.

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