Estimating the index flood with continuous hydrological models: an application in Great Britain

Giuseppe Formetta, Ilaria Prosdocimi, Elizabeth Stewart, Victoria Bell

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24 Citations (SciVal)


Estimating peak river discharge, a critical issue in engineering hydrology, is essential for designing and managing hydraulic infrastructure such as dams and bridges. In the UK, practitioners typically apply the Flood Estimation Handbook (FEH) statistical method which estimates the design flood as the product of a relatively frequent flow estimate (the index flood, IF) and a regional growth factor. For gauged catchments the IF is estimated from observations. For ungauged catchments it is computed through a multiple regression model. While the FEH IF method provides peak flow estimates that are statistically robust, it does not readily take into account catchment heterogeneity or effect of environmental change on river flows. This study presents a new methodology to estimate the IF at national scale using continuous simulation from a physically based hydrological model (Grid-to-Grid). The methodology is tested across Great Britain and compares well with IF estimates at 550 gauging stations (R2 = 0.91). The promising results for Great Britain support the aspiration that continuous simulation from large-scale hydrological models coupled with increasing availability of global weather and climate products, could be used to estimate design floods in regions with limited gauge data or affected by environmental change.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbernh2017251
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalHydrology Research
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Flood frequency analysis
  • Index flood estimation
  • Large-scale hydrological modelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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