Evaluation of Operational National Weather Service Gridded Flash Flood Guidance over the Arkansas Red River Basin


  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0192-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service (NWS) flash flood warnings are issued by Weather Forecast Offices and are underpinned by information from the Flash Flood Guidance (FFG) system operated by the River Forecast Centers (RFCs). This study focuses on the quantitative evaluation and limitations of the FFG system using reported flash flood cases in 2010 and 2011. The flash flood reports were obtained from the NWS Storm Event database for the Arkansas-Red Basin RFC (ABRFC). The current FFG system at the ABRFC provides gridded flash flood guidance (GFFG) system using the NWS Hydrology Laboratory-Research Distributed Hydrologic Model to translate the upper zone soil moisture to estimates of Soil Conservation Service Curve Numbers. Comparisons of the GFFG and real-time Multisensor Precipitation Estimator-derived Quantitative Precipitation Estimate for the same duration and location were used to analyze the success of the system. Typically, the six-hour duration was characterized by higher probability of detection values than the three-hour duration, which highlights the difficulty of hydrologic process estimation for shorter time scales. The current system does not take into account physical characteristics such as land use, including irrigated agricultural farm and urban areas, hence, overly dry soil moisture estimates over these areas can lower the success rate of the GFFG product.