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A Simple Early Warning System for Flash Floods in an Ungauged Catchment and Application in the Loess Plateau, China

School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Chang’an University, Xi’an 710054, China
Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecological Effect in Arid Region of Ministry of Education, Xi’an 710054, China
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering & Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University 400 Bizzell St, College Station, TX 77843, USA
College of Environment and Resources, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot 010021, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(3), 426;
Received: 14 January 2019 / Revised: 13 February 2019 / Accepted: 22 February 2019 / Published: 27 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Related Disaster and Water Environment Management)
PDF [6568 KB, uploaded 28 February 2019]


Under climate change, flash floods have become more frequent and severe, and are posing a danger to society, especially in the ungauged catchments. The objective of this paper, is to construct a simple and early warning system, serving for flash floods risk management in the ungauged catchments of the Loess Plateau in China, and offer a reference for flash flood warning in other areas in the world. Considering the absence of hydrological data in the ungauged catchments, the early warning system for flash floods is established by combining the regional or watershed isograms of hydrological parameters and local empirical formulas. Therein, rainfall and water stage/flow are used as warning indices for real-time risk estimation of flash flood. For early warning, the disaster water stage was first determined according to the protected objects (e.g., residents and buildings), namely the critical water stage. The critical flow (flow threshold), was calculated based on the water stage, and the established relationship between water stage and flow using the cross-sectional measured data. Then, according to the flow frequency curve of the design flood, the frequency of critical flow was ascertained. Assuming that the rainfall and the flood have the same frequency, the critical rainfall threshold was calculated through the design rainstorm with the same frequency of the design flood. Due to the critical rainfall threshold being sensitive with different soil conditions, the design flood and frequency curve of flood flow were calculated under different soil conditions, and thus the rainfall threshold was given under different soil condition for early warning of the flash flood disaster. Taking two sections in Zichang County (within the Loess Plateau) as an example, we set the rainfall and water stage/flow thresholds to trigger immediate or preparation signals for the migration of the population along the river. The application of this method to the 7.26 flood events in 2017 in China, shows that the early warning system is feasible. It is expected that this simple early warning system can provide early warnings of flash floods in ungauged catchments in the Loess Plateau and other similar areas. View Full-Text
Keywords: critical water stage; early warning system; flash flood disaster; Loess Plateau; rainfall threshold; ungauged catchment critical water stage; early warning system; flash flood disaster; Loess Plateau; rainfall threshold; ungauged catchment

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Li, Z.; Zhang, H.; Singh, V.P.; Yu, R.; Zhang, S. A Simple Early Warning System for Flash Floods in an Ungauged Catchment and Application in the Loess Plateau, China. Water 2019, 11, 426.

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