Journal article

What drives high flow events in the Swiss Alps? Recent developments in wavelet spectral analysis and their application to hydrology

Extreme hydrological events are often triggered by exceptional co-variations of the relevant hydrometeorological processes and in particular by exceptional co-oscillations at various temporal scales. Wavelet and cross wavelet spectral analysis offers promising time-scale resolved analysis methods to detect and analyze such exceptional co-oscillations. This paper presents the state-of-the-art methods of wavelet spectral analysis, discusses related subtleties, potential pitfalls and recently developed solutions to overcome them and shows how wavelet spectral analysis, if combined to a rigorous significance test, can lead to reliable new insights into hydrometeorological processes for real-world applications. The presented methods are applied to detect potentially flood triggering situations in a high Alpine catchment for which a recent reestimation of design floods encountered significant problems simulating the observed high flows. For this case study, wavelet spectral analysis of precipitation, temperature and discharge offers a powerful tool to help detecting potentially flood producing meteorological situations and to distinguish between different types of floods with respect to the prevailing critical hydrometeorological conditions. This opens very new perspectives for the analysis of model performances focusing on the occurrence and non-occurrence of different types of high flow events. Based on the obtained results, the paper summarizes important recommendations for future applications of wavelet spectral analysis in hydrology.

Related material