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Hydrologic versus geomorphic drivers of trends in flood hazard

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Author(s)

Louise Jeanne Elizabeth Slater, Michael Bliss Singer, James Kirchner

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Abstract

Flooding is a major hazard to lives and infrastructure, but trends in flood hazard are poorly understood. The capacity of river channels to convey flood flows is typically assumed to be stationary, so changes in flood frequency are thought to be driven primarily by trends in streamflow. We have developed new methods for separately quantifying how trends in both streamflow and channel capacity have affected flood frequency at gauging sites across the USA. Flood frequency was generally nonstationary, with increasing flood hazard at a statistically significant majority of sites. Channel capacity driven changes in flood hazard were smaller, but more numerous, than those driven by streamflow. Our results demonstrate that accurately quantifying changes in flood hazard requires accounting separately for trends in both streamflow and channel capacity. They also show that channel capacity trends may have unforeseen consequences for flood management and for estimating flood insurance costs.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-376
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume42
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2015

    Research areas

  • Flood frequency, Morphodynamics, Climate change, Flood hazard trends, Streamflow, Hazards

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