Flood projections are still highly uncertain, partly resulting from the limited accuracy of simulated precipitation by climate models. To overcome this limitation, recent studies suggest to use direct linkages between atmospheric processes leading precipitation, often better simulated than precipitation, and the flood occurrence. Such an approach implies, however, that historical flood events mainly result from direct contribution of precipitation only. Consequently, this paper has a twofold objective: (i) To explore to what extent the generation of medium-magnitude flood events in a large mountainous catchment can be explained by the precipitation only, and (ii) to identify what are the best features of flood-inducing precipitation episodes (i.e., duration and accumulation). Taking advantage of centennial-long discharge (gauge stations) and precipitation (ERA-20C reanalysis) data series, this study is based on three-year return period flood events of the upper Rhône River (NW European Alps). Our results suggest that half of the studied floods are triggered by precipitation only, but precipitation indices are mainly good only for high-magnitude events with return period of at least 20 years. Hence, modelling flood occurrence directly from atmospheric processes leading precipitation seems to be possible for events with the highest magnitude (i.e., the ones with the highest potential to impact societies).
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited