Flash floods are common in small Mediterranean watersheds and the alerts provided by real-time monitoring systems provide too short anticipation times to warn the population. In this context, there is a strong need to develop flood forecasting systems in particular for developing countries such as Morocco where floods have severe socio-economic impacts. In this study, the AROME (Application of Research to Operations at Mesoscale), ALADIN (Aire Limited Dynamic Adaptation International Development) and WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting) meteorological models are evaluated to forecast flood events in the Rheraya and Ourika basin located in the High-Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The model evaluation is performed by comparing for a set of flood events the observed and simulated probabilities of exceedances for different precipitation thresholds. In addition, two different flood forecasting approaches are compared: the first one relies on the coupling of meteorological forecasts with a hydrological model and the second one is a based on a linear relationship between event rainfall, antecedent soil moisture and runoff. Three different soil moisture products (in-situ measurements, European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative ESA-CCI remote sensing data and ERA5 reanalysis) are compared to estimate the initial soil moisture conditions before flood events for both methods. Results showed that the WRF and AROME models better simulate precipitation amounts compared to ALADIN, indicating the added value of convection-permitting models. The regression-based flood forecasting method outperforms the hydrological model-based approach, and the maximum discharge is better reproduced when using the WRF forecasts in combination with ERA5. These results provide insights to implement robust flood forecasting approaches in the context of data scarcity that could be valuable for developing countries such as Morocco and other North African countries.
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