Floodplain inundation spectrum across the United States


TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Floodplain inundation poses both risks and benefits to society. In this study, we characterize floodplain inundation across the United States using 5800 stream gages. We find that between 4% and 12.6% of a river's annual flow moves through its floodplains. Flood duration and magnitude is greater in large rivers, whereas the frequency of events is greater in small streams. However, the relative exchange of floodwater between the channel and floodplain is similar across small streams and large rivers, with the exception of the water-limited arid river basins. When summed up across the entire river network, 90% of that exchange occurs in small streams on an annual basis. Our detailed characterization of inundation hydrology provides a unique perspective that the regulatory, management, and research communities can use to help balance both the risks and benefits associated with flooding.