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Variability of seasonal floods in the Upper Danube River basin

Jeneiová, Katarína, Kohnová, Silvia, Hall, Julia, Parajka, Juraj
Vodohospodársky časopis 2016 v.64 no.4 pp. 357-366
air temperature, altitude, basins, climate, floods, rivers, runoff, snowmelt, statistics, summer, watersheds, winter, Alps region, Danube River
The objective of this study is to analyse the spatial variability of seasonal flood occurrences in the Upper Danube region for the period 1961-2010. The analysis focuses on the understanding of the factors that control the spatial variability of winter and summer floods in 88 basins with different physiographic conditions. The evaluation is based on circular statistics, which compare the changes in the mean date and in the seasonal flood concentration index within a year or predefined season.The results indicate that summer half-year and winter half-year floods are dominant in the Alps and northern Danube tributaries, respectively. A comparison of the relative magnitude of flood events indicates that summer half-year floods are on average more than 50% larger than floods in winter. The evaluation of flood occurrence showed that the values of seasonal flood concentration index (median 0.75) in comparison to the annual floods (median 0.58) shows higher temporal concentration of floods. The flood seasonality of winter events is dominant in the Alps; however, along the northern fringe (i.e. the Isar, Iller and Inn River) the timing of winter half-year floods is diverse. The seasonal concentration of summer floods tends to increase with increasing mean elevation of the basins. The occurrence of the three largest summer floods is more stable, i.e. they tend to occur around the same time for the majority of analysed basins. The results show that fixing the summer and winter seasons to specific months does not always allow a clear distinction of the main flood generation processes. Therefore, criteria to define flood typologies that are more robust are needed for regions such as the Upper Danube, with large climate and topographical variability between the lowland and high elevations, particularly for the assessment of the effect of increasing air temperature on snowmelt runoff and associated floods.