Relevance of the correlation between precipitation and the 0 C isothermal altitude for extreme flood estimation

Extreme floods are commonly estimated with the help of design storms and hydrological models. In this paper, we propose a new method to take into account the relationship between precipitation intensity (P) and air temperature (T) to account for potential snow accumulation and melt processes during the elaboration of design storms. The proposed method is based on a detailed analysis of this P-T relationship in the Swiss Alps. The region, no upper precipitation intensity limit is detectable for increasing temperature. However, a relationship between the highest measured temperature before a precipitation event and the duration of the subsequent event could be identified. An explanation for this relationship is proposed here based on the temperature gradient measured before the precipitation events. The relevance of these results is discussed for an example of Probable Maximum Precipitation-Probable Maximum Flood (PMPPMF) estimation for the high mountainous Mattmark dam catchment in the Swiss Alps. The proposed method to associate a critical air temperature to a PMP is easily transposable to similar alpine settings where meteorological soundings as well as ground temperature and precipitation measurements are available. In the future, the analyses presented here might be further refined by distinguishing between precipitation event types (frontal versus orographic).

Published in:
Journal of Hydrology, 551, 177-187

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 Record created 2017-11-03, last modified 2019-12-05

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