Articles | Volume 370
11 Jun 2015
 | 11 Jun 2015

Extensive spatio-temporal assessment of flood events by application of pair-copulas

M. Schulte and A. H. Schumann

Abstract. Although the consequences of floods are strongly related to their peak discharges, a statistical classification of flood events that only depends on these peaks may not be sufficient for flood risk assessments. In many cases, the flood risk depends on a number of event characteristics. In case of an extreme flood, the whole river basin may be affected instead of a single watershed, and there will be superposition of peak discharges from adjoining catchments. These peaks differ in size and timing according to the spatial distribution of precipitation and watershed-specific processes of flood formation. Thus, the spatial characteristics of flood events should be considered as stochastic processes. Hence, there is a need for a multivariate statistical approach that represents the spatial interdependencies between floods from different watersheds and their coincidences. This paper addresses the question how these spatial interdependencies can be quantified. Each flood event is not only assessed with regard to its local conditions but also according to its spatio-temporal pattern within the river basin. In this paper we characterise the coincidence of floods by trivariate Joe-copula and pair-copulas. Their ability to link the marginal distributions of the variates while maintaining their dependence structure characterizes them as an adequate method. The results indicate that the trivariate copula model is able to represent the multivariate probabilities of the occurrence of simultaneous flood peaks well. It is suggested that the approach of this paper is very useful for the risk-based design of retention basins as it accounts for the complex spatio-temporal interactions of floods.