A flash flood hazard assessment in dry valleys (northern France) by cellular automata modelling

  • Douvinet J
  • Van De Wiel M
  • Delahaye D
 et al. 
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This paper presents an application of a cellular automaton-based run-off
model (RUICELLS) to a series of small dry valleys in the Seine-Maritime
department, northern France, to better assess their susceptibility to
flash flood. These muddy floods shortly follow high rainfall (50-100 mm
in less than 6 h) and occur in very small areas (< 20 km(2)). A surge
generally rushes down through the main valley just a few minutes after
rains have peaked. Previous events (n = 69, in the period 1983-2005)
have occasionally threatened human lives and have caused significant
damage to property and infrastructure. Nonetheless, given the variation
among the valleys and the infrequency of events, these floods have not
been numerous enough to permit a statistical analysis. Instead, we
numerically simulate the possible future flash floods using RUICELLS, a
cellular automaton model driven by a set of three deterministic
hydrological rules. Simulations have been conducted for 148 basins, each
subject to 16 different rainfall scenarios (2.368 simulations in total)
to (1) estimate the peak flow discharges (Q), the specific peak flows (Q
(s) ), and the lag times (T) of the flash floods and (2) detect the
critical rainfall intensities that would trigger warnings and increased
vigilance. Our simulations indicate that the number of basins
susceptible to flash flooding greatly increases with the higher rainfall
intensity, the distribution of sensitive crops (sugar beet, corn, maize,
and flax) and the basin morphology. Several small basins could also
induce by convergence a bigger flood in the downstream humid valleys.
The location of the highest simulated discharges is aligned with
observed events, and this comparison provides an evaluation of the
modelling performance and of the credibility of the results.

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  • Johnny Douvinet

  • Marco J. Van De Wiel

  • Daniel Delahaye

  • Etienne Cossart

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