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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-107
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-107
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 16 Apr 2019

Research article | 16 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Have trends changed over time? A study of UK peak flow data and sensitivity to observation period

Adam Griffin, Gianni Vesuviano, and Elizabeth Stewart Adam Griffin et al.
  • Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK

Abstract. Classical statistical methods for flood frequency estimation assume stationarity in the gauged data. However, recent focus on climate change and, within UK hydrology, severe floods in 2009 and 2015 have raised the profile of statistical analyses that include trends.

This paper considers how parameter estimates for the Generalised Logistic distribution (standard for UK annual maximum flows) vary through time, using the UK Benchmark Network (UKBN2) to separate the effects of land-use change from climate change. We focus on the sensitivity of parameter estimates to adding data, through fixed-width moving window and fixed-start extending window approaches, and on whether parameter trends are more prominent in specific geographical regions.

Under stationary assumptions, the addition of new data tends to further the convergence of parameters to some final value. However, addition of a single new data point can vastly change non-stationary parameter estimates. Little spatial correlation is seen in the magnitude of trends in peak flow data, potentially due to the spatial clustering of catchments in the UKBN2. In many places, the ratio between the 50-year and 100-year flood is decreasing, whereas the ratio between the 2-year and 30-year flood is increasing, presenting as a flattening of the flood frequency curve.

Adam Griffin et al.
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Adam Griffin et al.
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Short summary
Classical statistical methods for flood frequency estimation assume that flooding characteristics do not change over time. Recent focus on climate change has raised questions of the validity of such assumptions. Near-rural catchments are used to focus on climate change (not land use change), investigating the sensitivity of trend estimates to record period. Some key statistics were very sensitive, but conclusive spatial patterns were not found. Smaller floods were most affected by these trends.
Classical statistical methods for flood frequency estimation assume that flooding...
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