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Open AccessArticle

Is Precipitation the Main Trigger of Medium-Magnitude Floods in Large Alpine Catchments?

Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble-INP (Institute of Engineering Univ. Grenoble Alpes), IGE, 38031 Grenoble, France
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Water 2019, 11(12), 2507; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122507
Received: 27 September 2019 / Revised: 12 November 2019 / Accepted: 22 November 2019 / Published: 27 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
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).
Keywords: high-magnitude floods; historical; precipitation; Alps high-magnitude floods; historical; precipitation; Alps
MDPI and ACS Style

Raymond, F.; Wilhelm, B.; Anquetin, S. Is Precipitation the Main Trigger of Medium-Magnitude Floods in Large Alpine Catchments? Water 2019, 11, 2507.

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