Detection and attribution of urbanization effect on flood extremes using nonstationary flood-frequency models

Ilaria Prosdocimi, T. R. Kjeldsen, J. D. Miller

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This study investigates whether long-term changes in observed series of high flows can be attributed to changes in land-use via non-stationary flood frequency analyses. A point process characterization of threshold exceedances is used, which allows for direct inclusion of covariates in the model; as well as a non-stationary model for block maxima series. In particular, changes in annual, winter and summer block maxima and peaks over threshold extracted from gauged instantaneous flows records in two hydrologically similar catchments located in close proximity to one another in northern England are investigated. The study catchment is characterized by large increases in urbanization levels in recent decades, while the paired control catchment has remained undeveloped during the study period (1970-2010). To avoid the potential confounding effect of natural variability, a covariate which summarize key climatological properties is included in the flood frequency model. A significant effect of the increasing urbanization levels on high flows is detected, in particular in the summer season. Point process models appear to be superior to block maxima models in their ability to detect the effect of the increase in urbanization levels on high flows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4244-4262
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • flood frequency estimation
  • Urbanization
  • Non-stationarity


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