Main content area

A regional comparative analysis of empirical and theoretical flood peak-volume relationships

Szolgay, Ján, Gaál, Ladislav, Bacigál, Tomáš, Kohnová, Silvia, Hlavčová, Kamila, Výleta, Roman, Parajka, Juraj, Blöschl, Günter
Vodohospodársky časopis 2016 v.64 no.4 pp. 367-381
data collection, floods, models, multivariate analysis, runoff, snowmelt, watersheds, Austria
This paper analyses the bivariate relationship between flood peaks and corresponding flood event volumes modelled by empirical and theoretical copulas in a regional context, with a focus on flood generation processes in general, the regional differentiation of these and the effect of the sample size on reliable discrimination among models. A total of 72 catchments in North-West of Austria are analysed for the period 1976–2007. From the hourly runoff data set, 25 697 flood events were isolated and assigned to one of three flood process types: synoptic floods (including long- and short-rain floods), flash floods or snowmelt floods (both rain-on-snow and snowmelt floods). The first step of the analysis examines whether the empirical peak-volume copulas of different flood process types are regionally statistically distinguishable, separately for each catchment and the role of the sample size on the strength of the statements. The results indicate that the empirical copulas of flash floods tend to be different from those of the synoptic and snowmelt floods. The second step examines how similar are the empirical flood peak-volume copulas between catchments for a given flood type across the region. Empirical copulas of synoptic floods are the least similar between the catchments, however with the decrease of the sample size the difference between the performances of the process types becomes small. The third step examines the goodness-of-fit of different commonly used copula types to the data samples that represent the annual maxima of flood peaks and the respective volumes both regardless of flood generating processes (the traditional engineering approach) and also considering the three process-based classes. Extreme value copulas (Galambos, Gumbel and Hüsler-Reiss) show the best performance both for synoptic and flash floods, while the Frank copula shows the best performance for snowmelt floods. It is concluded that there is merit in treating flood types separately when analysing and estimating flood peak-volume dependence copulas; however, even the enlarged dataset gained by the process-based analysis in this study does not give sufficient information for a reliable model choice for multivariate statistical analysis of flood peaks and volumes.