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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-393
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2019-393
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 05 Dec 2019

Submitted as: research article | 05 Dec 2019

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

The role of spatial dependence for large-scale flood risk estimation

Ayse Duha Metin1,2, Nguyen Viet Dung1, Kai Schröter1, Sergiy Vorogushyn1, Björn Guse1, Heidi Kreibich1, and Bruno Merz1,2 Ayse Duha Metin et al.
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section Hydrology, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2Institute of Environmental Science and Geography, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Flood risk assessments are typically based on scenarios which assume homogeneous return periods of flood peaks throughout the catchment. This assumption is unrealistic for real flood events and may bias risk estimates for specific return periods. We investigate how three assumptions about the spatial dependence affect risk estimates: (i) spatially homogeneous scenarios (complete dependence), (ii) spatially heterogeneous scenarios (modelled dependence), and (iii) spatially heterogeneous, but uncorrelated scenarios (complete independence). To this end, the model chain RFM (Regional Flood Model) is applied to the Elbe catchment in Germany, accounting for the space-time dynamics of all flood generation processes, from the rainfall through catchment and river system processes to damage mechanisms. Different assumptions about the spatial dependence do not influence the expected annual damage (EAD), however, they bias the risk curve, i.e. the cumulative distribution function of damage. The widespread assumption of complete dependence strongly overestimates flood damage in the order of 100% for return periods larger than approximately 200 years. On the other hand, for small and medium floods with return periods smaller than approximately 50 years, damage is underestimated. The overestimation aggravates when risk is estimated for larger areas. This study demonstrates the importance of representing the spatial dependence of flood peaks and damage for risk assessments.

Ayse Duha Metin et al.
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Ayse Duha Metin et al.
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Short summary
For an effective risk management, flood risk should be properly assessed. Traditionally, risk is assessed by making the assumption of invariant flow or loss probabilities (the chance that a given discharge or loss is exceeded) within the river catchment during a single flood event. However, in reality, flooding is more severe in some regions than others. This study indicates the importance of representing the spatial dependence of flood peaks and damage for risk assessments.
For an effective risk management, flood risk should be properly assessed. Traditionally, risk is...
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