Challenges, opportunities, and pitfalls for global coupled hydrologic-hydraulic modeling of floods

S. Grimaldi, G. J.P. Schumann, A. Shokri, J. P. Walker, V. R.N. Pauwels

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47 Citations (Scopus)


Flood modeling at the regional to global scale is a key requirement for equitable emergency and land management. Coupled hydrological-hydraulic models are at the core of flood forecasting and risk assessment models. Nevertheless, each model is subject to uncertainties from different sources (e.g., model structure, parameters, and inputs). Understanding how uncertainties propagate through the modeling cascade is essential to invest in data collection, increase flood modeling accuracy, and comprehensively communicate modeling results to end users. This study used a numerical experiment to quantify the propagation of errors when coupling hydrological and hydraulic models for multiyear flood event modeling in a large basin, with large morphological and hydrological variability. A coupled modeling chain consisting of the hydrological model Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning and the hydraulic model LISFLOOD-FP was used for the prediction of floodplain inundation in the Murray Darling Basin (Australia), from 2006 to 2012. The impacts of discrepancies between simulated and measured flow hydrographs on the predicted inundation patterns were analyzed by moving from small upstream catchments to large lowland catchments. The numerical experiment was able to identify areas requiring tailored modeling solutions or data collection. Moreover, this study highlighted the high sensitivity of inundation volume and extent prediction to uncertainties in flood peak values and explored challenges in time-continuous modeling. Accurate flood peak predictions, knowledge of critical morphological features, and an event-based modeling approach were outlined as pragmatic solutions for more accurate prediction of large-scale spatiotemporal patterns of flood dynamics, particularly in the presence of low-accuracy elevation data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5277-5300
Number of pages24
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • coupled hydrologic-hydraulic modeling
  • error propagation
  • floods
  • large scale
  • low resolution DEM

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