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Hydro-meteorological modeling study of a flash-flood event over Catalonia: Sensitivities of the Llobregat river response to the rainfall uncertainty

Romero Romualdo

During the early morning on 10 June 2000, the Catalonia region was affected by a hazardous convective rainfall episode which produced a large increase on flow regimes in many internal catchments of the region. The present modeling study is focussed upon the Llobregat basin, the biggest internal catchment with a drainage area of 5040 km2. The first objective of the study is the characterization of the watershed hydrological response to this flash-flood event based on rain-gauge data and HEC-HMS runoff model. The HEC-HMS model has been calibrated using five episodes of similar torrential characteristics, and the effects of the spatial segmentation of the basin and of the temporal scale of the input rainfall field have been examined.
These kind of episodes present short recurrence intervals in Mediterranean Spain and the use of mesoscale forecast driven runoff simulation systems for increasing the lead-times of the emergency management procedures is a valuable issue to explore. The second objective uses NCEP and ECMWF analyses to initialize the MM5 non-hydrostatic mesoscale model in order to simulate the 10 June 2000 flash-flood episode with appropriate space and time scales to force the runoff model.
The final objective analyses the sensitivity of the catchment's response to the spatial and temporal uncertainty of the rainfall pattern based on an ensemble of perturbed MM5 simulations. MM5 perturbations are introduced through small shifts and changes in intensity of the precursor upper-level synoptic scale trough.
Main results indicate that:(1)an optimum configuration of the runoff model can be clearly defined that best adjusts the simulated basin's hydrological response to observed peak discharges, their timing and total volume; (2) the MM5-control driven runoff simulation shows a reasonable reproduction of the observed discharge at the basin's outlet and appears to be a suitable tool for the hydro-meteorological forecasting of flash-floods in the Llobregat basin as a whole; (3) the ensemble of perturbed runoff simulations does not exhibit any relevant degradation of the forecast skill and some of the members even outperform the control experiment at different stream-gauges locations.
That is, the catchment is relatively insensitive to rainfall forecast errors of a few tenths of kilometres and no more than 1-2 hours