Sensitivity of a mountain basin flash flood to initial wetness condition and rainfall variability

Efthymios I. Nikolopoulos, Emmanouil N. Anagnostou, Marco Borga, Enrique Vivoni, Anastasios Papadopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The sensitivities of runoff generation to rainfall variability and initial wetness conditions were examined for a major flash flood event that occurred during August 29, 2003 on the upper Tagliamento river basin in the eastern Italian Alps. The Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN)-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS) distributed hydrologic model was used to simulate the hydrologic response over a range of sub-basins. The model was calibrated for the single flash flood event based on the observed hydrograph at the outlet of the basin examined (Fella basin) and was validated based on the available observed hydrographs at interior points of the basin. A series of hydrologic simulations were performed for different initial soil moisture conditions and rainfall forcing resolutions in order to evaluate the sensitivity of runoff generation to those variables. Evaluation of the results suggests that both initial wetness and rainfall resolution affect significantly the simulated peak flow and runoff volume during the flash flood event. Sensitivity to initial wetness exhibits a scale dependence with the sensitivity increasing with basin scale. The bias introduced to the basin-averaged rainfall due to aggregation had a significant effect on runoff generation for all basin scales, while the effect of variability smoothing was important only for the larger scale basins. Finally, the sensitivity of the flood hydrograph to rainfall aggregation was shown to be more important for drier initial wetness states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-178
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 25 2011


  • Antecedent wetness
  • Distributed hydrologic modeling
  • Flash floods
  • Rainfall variability
  • Sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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