Advances in flash floods understanding and modelling derived from the FloodScale project in South-East France

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Abstract

The Mediterranean area is prone to intense rainfall events triggering flash floods, characterized by very short response times that sometimes lead to dramatic consequences in terms of casualties and damages. These events can affect large territories, but their impact may be very local in catchments that are generally ungauged. These events remain difficult to predict and the processes leading to their generation still need to be clarified. The HyMeX initiative (Hydrological Cycle in the Mediterranean Experiment, 2010-2020) aims at increasing our understanding of the water cycle in the Mediterranean basin, in particular in terms of extreme events. In order to better understand processes leading to flash floods, a four-year experiment (2012-2015) was conducted in the Cévennes region (South-East) France as part of the FloodScale project. Both continuous and opportunistic measurements during floods were conducted in two large catchments (Ardèche and Gard rivers) with nested instrumentation from the hillslopes to catchments of about 1, 10, 100 to 1000 km2 covering contrasted geology and land use. Continuous measurements include distributed rainfall, stream water level, discharge, water temperature and conductivity and soil moisture measurements. Opportunistic measurements include surface soil moisture and geochemistry sampling during events and gauging of floods using non-contact methods: portable radars to measure surface water velocity or image sequence analysis using LS-PIV (Large Scale Particle Image Velocimetry). During the period 2012-2014, and in particular during autumn 2014, several intense events affected the catchments and provided very rich data sets. Data collection was complemented with modelling activity aiming at simulating observed processes. The modelling strategy was setup through a wide range of scales, in order to test hypotheses about physical processes at the smallest scales, and aggregated functioning hypothesis at the largest scales. During the project, a focus was also put on the improvement of rainfall fields characterization both in terms of spatial and temporal variability and in terms of uncertainty quantification. Rainfall reanalyses combining radar and rain gauges were developed. Rainfall simulation using a stochastic generator was also performed. Another effort was dedicated to the improvement of discharge estimation during floods and the quantification of streamflow uncertainties using Bayesian techniques. The paper summarizes the main results gained from the observations and the subsequent modelling activity in terms of flash flood process understanding at the various scales. It concludes on how the new acquired knowledge can be used for prevention and management of flash floods.

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Braud, I., Ayral, P. A., Bouvier, C., Branger, F., Delrieu, G., Dramais, G., … Vandervaere, J. P. (2016). Advances in flash floods understanding and modelling derived from the FloodScale project in South-East France. In E3S Web of Conferences (Vol. 7). EDP Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/20160704005

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