Analysis, Modeling, and Forecasting Of Urban Flooding

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Virginia Tech


As the world becomes more urbanized and heavy precipitation events increase in frequency and intensity, urban flooding is an emerging concern. Urban flooding is caused when heavy rainfall collects on the landscape, exceeding the capacity of drainage systems to effectively convey runoff. Unlike riverine and coastal flooding, urban flooding occurs frequently, and its risks and impacts are not restricted to areas within floodplains or near bodies of water. The objective of this dissertation is to improve our understanding of urban flooding and our capability to predict it through the development of tools and knowledge to assist with its analysis, modeling, and forecasting.

To do this, three research objectives were fulfilled. First, the Stream Hydrology And Rainfall Knowledge System (SHARKS) app was developed to improve upon existing real-time hydrologic and meteorological data retrieval/visualization platforms through the integration of analysis tools to study the hydrologic processes influencing urban flooding. Next, the ability to simulate the hydrologic response of urban watersheds with large storm sewer networks was compared between the fully distributed Gridded Surface/Subsurface Hydrologic Analysis (GSSHA) model and the semi-distributed Storm Water Management Model (SWMM). Finally, the Probabilistic Urban Flash Flood Information Nexus (PUFFIN) application was created to help users evaluate the probability of urban flash flooding and to identify specific infrastructure components at risk through the integration of high-resolution quantitative precipitation forecasting, ensemble forecasting, and hydrologic and hydraulic modeling.

The outcomes of this dissertation provide municipalities with tools and knowledge to assist them throughout the process of developing solutions to their site-specific urban flooding issues. Specifically, tools are provided to rapidly analyze and respond to rainfall and streamflow/depth information during intense rain events and to perform retrospective analysis of long-term hydrological processes. Evaluations are included to help guide the selection of hydrologic and hydraulic models for modeling urban flooding, and a new proactive paradigm of probabilistic flash flood guidance for urban areas is introduced. Finally, several potential directions for future work are recommended.



Urban Flash Flooding, Hydrology, Data Visualization, Forecasting