Flood

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Flooding in a street Urban flood cropped.jpg
Flooding in a street
Contemporary picture of the flood that struck the North Sea coast of Germany and Denmark in October 1634. Erschrecklichewasserfluth.jpg
Contemporary picture of the flood that struck the North Sea coast of Germany and Denmark in October 1634.
People seeking refuge from flood in Jawa Tengah, Java. ca. 1865-1876. A Flood on Java 1865-1876 Raden Saleh.jpg
People seeking refuge from flood in Jawa Tengah, Java. ca. 1865–1876.
View of flooded New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Katrina-new-orleans-flooding3-2005.jpg
View of flooded New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
"Regular" flooding in Venice, Italy. Venezia-Venice-Venedig-at-night JBU-02.JPG
"Regular" flooding in Venice, Italy.
Flooding of a creek due to heavy monsoonal rain and high tide in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. Rapid Creek flooding 1.jpg
Flooding of a creek due to heavy monsoonal rain and high tide in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.
Jeddah Flood, covering King Abdullah Street in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah Flood - King Abdullah Street.jpg
Jeddah Flood, covering King Abdullah Street in Saudi Arabia.
Flooding near Key West, Florida, United States from Hurricane Wilma's storm surge in October 2005. Flood102405.JPG
Flooding near Key West, Florida, United States from Hurricane Wilma's storm surge in October 2005.
Flooding in a street of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil in April 2013. Natal Brazil Flood.jpeg
Flooding in a street of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil in April 2013.
Minor flooding in a parking lot off Juniper street Atlanta on Christmas Eve from thunderstorms caused by an El Nino event. The same El Nino caused recorded highs for January in Atlanta Minor Flooding in midtown atl.jpg
Minor flooding in a parking lot off Juniper street Atlanta on Christmas Eve from thunderstorms caused by an El Nino event. The same El Nino caused recorded highs for January in Atlanta
Flash flooding caused by heavy rain falling in a short amount of time. Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2.jpg
Flash flooding caused by heavy rain falling in a short amount of time.
Dozens of villages were inundated when rain pushed the rivers of northwestern Bangladesh over their banks in early October 2005. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured the top image of the flooded Ghaghat and Atrai Rivers on October 12, 2005. The deep blue of the rivers is spread across the countryside in the flood image. BDF0.jpg
Dozens of villages were inundated when rain pushed the rivers of northwestern Bangladesh over their banks in early October 2005. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured the top image of the flooded Ghaghat and Atrai Rivers on October 12, 2005. The deep blue of the rivers is spread across the countryside in the flood image.

A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. [1] In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrology and are of significant concern in agriculture, civil engineering and public health.

Tide The periodic change of sea levels caused by the gravitational and inertial effects of the Moon, the Sun and the rotation of the Earth

Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth.

Hydrology The science of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets

Hydrology is the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability. A practitioner of hydrology is a hydrologist, working within the fields of earth or environmental science, physical geography, geology or civil and environmental engineering. Using various analytical methods and scientific techniques, they collect and analyze data to help solve water related problems such as environmental preservation, natural disasters, and water management.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Contents

Flooding may occur as an overflow of water from water bodies, such as a river, lake, or ocean, in which the water overtops or breaks levees, resulting in some of that water escaping its usual boundaries, [2] or it may occur due to an accumulation of rainwater on saturated ground in an areal flood. While the size of a lake or other body of water will vary with seasonal changes in precipitation and snow melt, these changes in size are unlikely to be considered significant unless they flood property or drown domestic animals.

River Natural flowing watercourse

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Small rivers can be referred to using names such as stream, creek, brook, rivulet, and rill. There are no official definitions for the generic term river as applied to geographic features, although in some countries or communities a stream is defined by its size. Many names for small rivers are specific to geographic location; examples are "run" in some parts of the United States, "burn" in Scotland and northeast England, and "beck" in northern England. Sometimes a river is defined as being larger than a creek, but not always: the language is vague.

Lake A body of relatively still water, in a basin surrounded by land

A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land, apart from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are also larger and deeper than ponds, though there are no official or scientific definitions. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams, which are usually flowing. Most lakes are fed and drained by rivers and streams.

Levee Ridge or wall to hold back water

A levee, dike, dyke, embankment, floodbank or stopbank is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall, which regulates water levels. It is usually earthen and often parallel to the course of a river in its floodplain or along low-lying coastlines.

Floods can also occur in rivers when the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends or meanders in the waterway. Floods often cause damage to homes and businesses if they are in the natural flood plains of rivers. While riverine flood damage can be eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, people have traditionally lived and worked by rivers because the land is usually flat and fertile and because rivers provide easy travel and access to commerce and industry.

Meander A sinuous bend in a series in the channel of a river

A meander is one of a series of regular sinuous curves, bends, loops, turns, or windings in the channel of a river, stream, or other watercourse. It is produced by a stream or river swinging from side to side as it flows across its floodplain or shifts its channel within a valley. A meander is produced by a stream or river as it erodes the sediments comprising an outer, concave bank and deposits this and other sediment downstream on an inner, convex bank which is typically a point bar. The result of sediments being eroded from the outside concave bank and their deposition on an inside convex bank is the formation of a sinuous course as a channel migrates back and forth across the down-valley axis of a floodplain. The zone within which a meandering stream shifts its channel across either its floodplain or valley floor from time to time is known as a meander belt. It typically ranges from 15 to 18 times the width of the channel. Over time, meanders migrate downstream, sometimes in such a short time as to create civil engineering problems for local municipalities attempting to maintain stable roads and bridges.

Waterway Any navigable body of water

A waterway is any navigable body of water. Broad distinctions are useful to avoid ambiguity, and disambiguation will be of varying importance depending on the nuance of the equivalent word in other languages. A first distinction is necessary between maritime shipping routes and waterways used by inland water craft. Maritime shipping routes cross oceans and seas, and some lakes, where navigability is assumed, and no engineering is required, except to provide the draft for deep-sea shipping to approach seaports (channels), or to provide a short cut across an isthmus; this is the function of ship canals. Dredged channels in the sea are not usually described as waterways. There is an exception to this initial distinction, essentially for legal purposes, see under international waters.

Some floods develop slowly, while others such as flash floods can develop in just a few minutes and without visible signs of rain. Additionally, floods can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins.

Flash flood rapid flooding of geomorphic low-lying areas

A flash flood is a rapid flooding of low-lying areas: washes, rivers, dry lakes and basins. It may be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane, tropical storm, or meltwater from ice or snow flowing over ice sheets or snowfields. Flash floods may occur after the collapse of a natural ice or debris dam, or a human structure such as a man-made dam, as occurred before the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Flash floods are distinguished from regular floods by having a timescale of fewer than six hours between rainfall and the onset of flooding. The water that is temporarily available is often used by plants with rapid germination and short growth cycles and by specially adapted animal life.

Etymology

The word "flood" comes from the Old English flod, a word common to Germanic languages (compare German Flut, Dutch vloed from the same root as is seen in flow, float; also compare with Latin fluctus, flumen).

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Principal types

Areal

Floods can happen on flat or low-lying areas when water is supplied by rainfall or snowmelt more rapidly than it can either infiltrate or run off. The excess accumulates in place, sometimes to hazardous depths. Surface soil can become saturated, which effectively stops infiltration, where the water table is shallow, such as a floodplain, or from intense rain from one or a series of storms. Infiltration also is slow to negligible through frozen ground, rock, concrete, paving, or roofs. Areal flooding begins in flat areas like floodplains and in local depressions not connected to a stream channel, because the velocity of overland flow depends on the surface slope. Endorheic basins may experience areal flooding during periods when precipitation exceeds evaporation. [3]

Infiltration (hydrology) process by which water on the ground surface enters the soil

In hydrology and soil science, infiltration is the process by which water on the ground surface enters the soil. Infiltration rate is a measure of the temporal rate at which soil is able to absorb rainfall or irrigation. It is most often measured in millimetres per hour or inches per hour. The rate decreases as the soil becomes saturated. If the precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate, runoff will usually occur unless there is some physical barrier. It is related to the saturated hydraulic conductivity of the near-surface soil. The rate of infiltration can be measured using an infiltrometer.

Surface runoff The flow of excess stormwater, meltwater, or water from other sources over the Earths surface

Surface runoff is the flow of water that occurs when excess stormwater, meltwater, or other sources flows over the Earth's surface. This might occur because soil is saturated to full capacity, because rain arrives more quickly than soil can absorb it, or because impervious areas send their runoff to surrounding soil that cannot absorb all of it. Surface runoff is a major component of the water cycle. It is the primary agent in soil erosion by water.

Soil mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life. Earth's body of soil, called the pedosphere, has four important functions:

Riverine (Channel)

Floods occur in all types of river and stream channels, from the smallest ephemeral streams in humid zones to normally-dry channels in arid climates to the world's largest rivers. When overland flow occurs on tilled fields, it can result in a muddy flood where sediments are picked up by run off and carried as suspended matter or bed load. Localized flooding may be caused or exacerbated by drainage obstructions such as landslides, ice, debris, or beaver dams.

Slow-rising floods most commonly occur in large rivers with large catchment areas. The increase in flow may be the result of sustained rainfall, rapid snow melt, monsoons, or tropical cyclones. However, large rivers may have rapid flooding events in areas with dry climate, since they may have large basins but small river channels and rainfall can be very intense in smaller areas of those basins.

Rapid flooding events, including flash floods, more often occur on smaller rivers, rivers with steep valleys, rivers that flow for much of their length over impermeable terrain, or normally-dry channels. The cause may be localized convective precipitation (intense thunderstorms) or sudden release from an upstream impoundment created behind a dam, landslide, or glacier. In one instance, a flash flood killed eight people enjoying the water on a Sunday afternoon at a popular waterfall in a narrow canyon. Without any observed rainfall, the flow rate increased from about 50 to 1,500 cubic feet per second (1.4 to 42 m3/s) in just one minute. [4] Two larger floods occurred at the same site within a week, but no one was at the waterfall on those days. The deadly flood resulted from a thunderstorm over part of the drainage basin, where steep, bare rock slopes are common and the thin soil was already saturated.

Flash floods are the most common flood type in normally-dry channels in arid zones, known as arroyos in the southwest United States and many other names elsewhere. In that setting, the first flood water to arrive is depleted as it wets the sandy stream bed. The leading edge of the flood thus advances more slowly than later and higher flows. As a result, the rising limb of the hydrograph becomes ever quicker as the flood moves downstream, until the flow rate is so great that the depletion by wetting soil becomes insignificant.

Estuarine and coastal

Flooding in estuaries is commonly caused by a combination of sea tidal surges caused by winds and low barometric pressure, and they may be exacerbated by high upstream river flow.

Coastal areas may be flooded by storm events at sea, resulting in waves over-topping defenses or in severe cases by tsunami or tropical cyclones. A storm surge, from either a tropical cyclone or an extratropical cyclone, falls within this category. Research from the NHC (National Hurricane Center) explains: "Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases." [5]

Urban flooding

Urban flooding is the inundation of land or property in a built environment, particularly in more densely populated areas, caused by rainfall overwhelming the capacity of drainage systems, such as storm sewers. Although sometimes triggered by events such as flash flooding or snowmelt, urban flooding is a condition, characterized by its repetitive and systemic impacts on communities, that can happen regardless of whether or not affected communities are located within designated floodplains or near any body of water. [6] Aside from potential overflow of rivers and lakes, snowmelt, stormwater or water released from damaged water mains may accumulate on property and in public rights-of-way, seep through building walls and floors, or backup into buildings through sewer pipes, toilets and sinks.

In urban areas, flood effects can be exacerbated by existing paved streets and roads, which increase the speed of flowing water.

The flood flow in urbanized areas constitutes a hazard to both the population and infrastructure. Some recent catastrophes include the inundations of Nîmes (France) in 1998 and Vaison-la-Romaine (France) in 1992, the flooding of New Orleans (USA) in 2005, and the flooding in Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Brisbane during the 2010–2011 summer in Queensland (Australia). Flood flows in urban environments have been studied relatively recently despite many centuries of flood events. [7] Some recent research has considered the criteria for safe evacuation of individuals in flooded areas. [8]

Catastrophic

Catastrophic riverine flooding is usually associated with major infrastructure failures such as the collapse of a dam, but they may also be caused by drainage channel modification from a landslide, earthquake or volcanic eruption. Examples include outburst floods and lahars. Tsunamis can cause catastrophic coastal flooding, most commonly resulting from undersea earthquakes.

Causes

Flood due to Cyclone Hudhud in Visakhapatnam Cyclone Hudhud destruction in Visakhapatnam 2.jpg
Flood due to Cyclone Hudhud in Visakhapatnam

Upslope factors

The amount, location, and timing of water reaching a drainage channel from natural precipitation and controlled or uncontrolled reservoir releases determines the flow at downstream locations. Some precipitation evaporates, some slowly percolates through soil, some may be temporarily sequestered as snow or ice, and some may produce rapid runoff from surfaces including rock, pavement, roofs, and saturated or frozen ground. The fraction of incident precipitation promptly reaching a drainage channel has been observed from nil for light rain on dry, level ground to as high as 170 percent for warm rain on accumulated snow. [9]

Most precipitation records are based on a measured depth of water received within a fixed time interval. Frequency of a precipitation threshold of interest may be determined from the number of measurements exceeding that threshold value within the total time period for which observations are available. Individual data points are converted to intensity by dividing each measured depth by the period of time between observations. This intensity will be less than the actual peak intensity if the duration of the rainfall event was less than the fixed time interval for which measurements are reported. Convective precipitation events (thunderstorms) tend to produce shorter duration storm events than orographic precipitation. Duration, intensity, and frequency of rainfall events are important to flood prediction. Short duration precipitation is more significant to flooding within small drainage basins. [10]

The most important upslope factor in determining flood magnitude is the land area of the watershed upstream of the area of interest. Rainfall intensity is the second most important factor for watersheds of less than approximately 30 square miles or 80 square kilometres. The main channel slope is the second most important factor for larger watersheds. Channel slope and rainfall intensity become the third most important factors for small and large watersheds, respectively. [11]

Time of Concentration is the time required for runoff from the most distant point of the upstream drainage area to reach the point of the drainage channel controlling flooding of the area of interest. The time of concentration defines the critical duration of peak rainfall for the area of interest. [12] The critical duration of intense rainfall might be only a few minutes for roof and parking lot drainage structures, while cumulative rainfall over several days would be critical for river basins.

Downslope factors

Water flowing downhill ultimately encounters downstream conditions slowing movement. The final limitation in coastal flooding lands is often the ocean or some coastal flooding bars which form natural lakes. In flooding low lands, elevation changes such as tidal fluctuations are significant determinants of coastal and estuarine flooding. Less predictable events like tsunamis and storm surges may also cause elevation changes in large bodies of water. Elevation of flowing water is controlled by the geometry of the flow channel and, especially, by depth of channel, speed of flow and amount of sediments in it [11] Flow channel restrictions like bridges and canyons tend to control water elevation above the restriction. The actual control point for any given reach of the drainage may change with changing water elevation, so a closer point may control for lower water levels until a more distant point controls at higher water levels.

Effective flood channel geometry may be changed by growth of vegetation, accumulation of ice or debris, or construction of bridges, buildings, or levees within the flood channel.

Coincidence

Extreme flood events often result from coincidence such as unusually intense, warm rainfall melting heavy snow pack, producing channel obstructions from floating ice, and releasing small impoundments like beaver dams. [13] Coincident events may cause extensive flooding to be more frequent than anticipated from simplistic statistical prediction models considering only precipitation runoff flowing within unobstructed drainage channels. [14] Debris modification of channel geometry is common when heavy flows move uprooted woody vegetation and flood-damaged structures and vehicles, including boats and railway equipment. Recent field measurements during the 2010–11 Queensland floods showed that any criterion solely based upon the flow velocity, water depth or specific momentum cannot account for the hazards caused by velocity and water depth fluctuations. [7] These considerations ignore further the risks associated with large debris entrained by the flow motion. [8]

Some researchers have mentioned the storage effect in urban areas with transportation corridors created by cut and fill. Culverted fills may be converted to impoundments if the culverts become blocked by debris, and flow may be diverted along streets. Several studies have looked into the flow patterns and redistribution in streets during storm events and the implication on flood modelling. [15]

Effects

Primary effects

The primary effects of flooding include loss of life and damage to buildings and other structures, including bridges, sewerage systems, roadways, and canals.

Floods also frequently damage power transmission and sometimes power generation, which then has knock-on effects caused by the loss of power. This includes loss of drinking water treatment and water supply, which may result in loss of drinking water or severe water contamination. It may also cause the loss of sewage disposal facilities. Lack of clean water combined with human sewage in the flood waters raises the risk of waterborne diseases, which can include typhoid, giardia, cryptosporidium, cholera and many other diseases depending upon the location of the flood.

Damage to roads and transport infrastructure may make it difficult to mobilize aid to those affected or to provide emergency health treatment.

Flood waters typically inundate farm land, making the land unworkable and preventing crops from being planted or harvested, which can lead to shortages of food both for humans and farm animals. Entire harvests for a country can be lost in extreme flood circumstances. Some tree species may not survive prolonged flooding of their root systems. [16]

Secondary and long-term effects

Economic hardship due to a temporary decline in tourism, rebuilding costs, or food shortages leading to price increases is a common after-effect of severe flooding. The impact on those affected may cause psychological damage to those affected, in particular where deaths, serious injuries and loss of property occur.

Urban flooding can cause chronically wet houses, leading to the growth of indoor mold and resulting in adverse health effects, particularly respiratory symptoms. [17] Urban flooding also has significant economic implications for affected neighborhoods. In the United States, industry experts estimate that wet basements can lower property values by 10–25 percent and are cited among the top reasons for not purchasing a home. [18] According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a flooding disaster. [19] In the United States, insurance is available against flood damage to both homes and businesses. [20]

Benefits

Floods (in particular more frequent or smaller floods) can also bring many benefits, such as recharging ground water, making soil more fertile and increasing nutrients in some soils. Flood waters provide much needed water resources in arid and semi-arid regions where precipitation can be very unevenly distributed throughout the year and kills pests in the farming land. Freshwater floods particularly play an important role in maintaining ecosystems in river corridors and are a key factor in maintaining floodplain biodiversity. [21] Flooding can spread nutrients to lakes and rivers, which can lead to increased biomass and improved fisheries for a few years.

For some fish species, an inundated floodplain may form a highly suitable location for spawning with few predators and enhanced levels of nutrients or food. [22] Fish, such as the weather fish, make use of floods in order to reach new habitats. Bird populations may also profit from the boost in food production caused by flooding. [23]

Periodic flooding was essential to the well-being of ancient communities along the Tigris-Euphrates Rivers, the Nile River, the Indus River, the Ganges and the Yellow River among others. The viability of hydropower, a renewable source of energy, is also higher in flood prone regions.

Flood safety planning

Aftermath of flooding in Colorado, 2013 Greeley, CO, September 19, 2013 (12441526333).jpg
Aftermath of flooding in Colorado, 2013

At the most basic level, the best defense against floods is to seek higher ground for high-value uses while balancing the foreseeable risks with the benefits of occupying flood hazard zones. [24] :22–23 Critical community-safety facilities, such as hospitals, emergency-operations centers, and police, fire, and rescue services, should be built in areas least at risk of flooding. Structures, such as bridges, that must unavoidably be in flood hazard areas should be designed to withstand flooding. Areas most at risk for flooding could be put to valuable uses that could be abandoned temporarily as people retreat to safer areas when a flood is imminent.

Planning for flood safety involves many aspects of analysis and engineering, including:

Each topic presents distinct yet related questions with varying scope and scale in time, space, and the people involved. Attempts to understand and manage the mechanisms at work in floodplains have been made for at least six millennia. [25] [ page needed ]

In the United States, the Association of State Floodplain Managers works to promote education, policies, and activities that mitigate current and future losses, costs, and human suffering caused by flooding and to protect the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains – all without causing adverse impacts. [26] A portfolio of best practice examples for disaster mitigation in the United States is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. [27]

Control

In many countries around the world, waterways prone to floods are often carefully managed. Defenses such as detention basins, levees, [28] bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent waterways from overflowing their banks. When these defenses fail, emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are often used to try to stem flooding. Coastal flooding has been addressed in portions of Europe and the Americas with coastal defenses, such as sea walls, beach nourishment, and barrier islands.

In the riparian zone near rivers and streams, erosion control measures can be taken to try to slow down or reverse the natural forces that cause many waterways to meander over long periods of time. Flood controls, such as dams, can be built and maintained over time to try to reduce the occurrence and severity of floods as well. In the United States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a network of such flood control dams.

In areas prone to urban flooding, one solution is the repair and expansion of man-made sewer systems and stormwater infrastructure. Another strategy is to reduce impervious surfaces in streets, parking lots and buildings through natural drainage channels, porous paving, and wetlands (collectively known as green infrastructure or sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS)). Areas identified as flood-prone can be converted into parks and playgrounds that can tolerate occasional flooding. Ordinances can be adopted to require developers to retain stormwater on site and require buildings to be elevated, protected by floodwalls and levees, or designed to withstand temporary inundation. Property owners can also invest in solutions themselves, such as re-landscaping their property to take the flow of water away from their building and installing rain barrels, sump pumps, and check valves.

Analysis of flood information

A series of annual maximum flow rates in a stream reach can be analyzed statistically to estimate the 100-year flood and floods of other recurrence intervals there. Similar estimates from many sites in a hydrologically similar region can be related to measurable characteristics of each drainage basin to allow indirect estimation of flood recurrence intervals for stream reaches without sufficient data for direct analysis.

Physical process models of channel reaches are generally well understood and will calculate the depth and area of inundation for given channel conditions and a specified flow rate, such as for use in floodplain mapping and flood insurance. Conversely, given the observed inundation area of a recent flood and the channel conditions, a model can calculate the flow rate. Applied to various potential channel configurations and flow rates, a reach model can contribute to selecting an optimum design for a modified channel. Various reach models are available as of 2015, either 1D models (flood levels measured in the channel) or 2D models (variable flood depths measured across the extent of a floodplain). HEC-RAS, [29] the Hydraulic Engineering Center model, is among the most popular software, if only because it is available free of charge. Other models such as TUFLOW [30] combine 1D and 2D components to derive flood depths across both river channels and the entire floodplain.

Physical process models of complete drainage basins are even more complex. Although many processes are well understood at a point or for a small area, others are poorly understood at all scales, and process interactions under normal or extreme climatic conditions may be unknown. Basin models typically combine land-surface process components (to estimate how much rainfall or snowmelt reaches a channel) with a series of reach models. For example, a basin model can calculate the runoff hydrograph that might result from a 100-year storm, although the recurrence interval of a storm is rarely equal to that of the associated flood. Basin models are commonly used in flood forecasting and warning, as well as in analysis of the effects of land use change and climate change.

Flood forecasting

Anticipating floods before they occur allows for precautions to be taken and people to be warned [31] so that they can be prepared in advance for flooding conditions. For example, farmers can remove animals from low-lying areas and utility services can put in place emergency provisions to re-route services if needed. Emergency services can also make provisions to have enough resources available ahead of time to respond to emergencies as they occur. People can evacuate areas to be flooded.

In order to make the most accurate flood forecasts for waterways, it is best to have a long time-series of historical data that relates stream flows to measured past rainfall events. [32] Coupling this historical information with real-time knowledge about volumetric capacity in catchment areas, such as spare capacity in reservoirs, ground-water levels, and the degree of saturation of area aquifers is also needed in order to make the most acrate flood forecasts.

Radar estimates of rainfall and general weather forecasting techniques are also important components of good flood forecasting. In areas where good quality data is available, the intensity and height of a flood can be predicted with fairly good accuracy and plenty of lead time. The output of a flood forecast is typically a maximum expected water level and the likely time of its arrival at key locations along a waterway, [33] and it also may allow for the computation of the likely statistical return period of a flood. In many developed countries, urban areas at risk of flooding are protected against a 100-year flood – that is a flood that has a probability of around 63% of occurring in any 100-year period of time.

According to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) Northeast River Forecast Center (RFC) in Taunton, Massachusetts, a rule of thumb for flood forecasting in urban areas is that it takes at least 1 inch (25 mm) of rainfall in around an hour's time in order to start significant ponding of water on impermeable surfaces. Many NWS RFCs routinely issue Flash Flood Guidance and Headwater Guidance, which indicate the general amount of rainfall that would need to fall in a short period of time in order to cause flash flooding or flooding on larger water basins. [34]

In the United States, an integrated approach to real-time hydrologic computer modelling utilizes observed data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), [35] various cooperative observing networks, [36] various automated weather sensors, the NOAA National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC), [37] various hydroelectric companies, etc. combined with quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF) of expected rainfall and/or snow melt to generate daily or as-needed hydrologic forecasts. [33] The NWS also cooperates with Environment Canada on hydrologic forecasts that affect both the USA and Canada, like in the area of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

The Global Flood Monitoring System, "GFMS," a computer tool which maps flood conditions worldwide, is available online. Users anywhere in the world can use GFMS to determine when floods may occur in their area. GFMS uses precipitation data from NASA's Earth observing satellites and the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite, "GPM." Rainfall data from GPM is combined with a land surface model that incorporates vegetation cover, soil type, and terrain to determine how much water is soaking into the ground, and how much water is flowing into streamflow.

Users can view statistics for rainfall, streamflow, water depth, and flooding every 3 hours, at each 12 kilometer gridpoint on a global map. Forecasts for these parameters are 5 days into the future. Users can zoom in to see inundation maps (areas estimated to be covered with water) in 1 kilometer resolution. [38] [39]

Deadliest floods

Below is a list of the deadliest floods worldwide, showing events with death tolls at or above 100,000 individuals.

Death tollEventLocationDate
2,500,000–3,700,000 [40] 1931 China floods China 1931
900,000–2,000,000 1887 Yellow River flood China 1887
500,000–700,000 1938 Yellow River flood China1938
231,000 Banqiao Dam failure, result of Typhoon Nina. Approximately 86,000 people died from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent disease.China1975
230,000 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami Indonesia 2004
145,0001935 Yangtze river floodChina1935
100,000+ St. Felix's flood, storm surge Netherlands 1530
100,000 Hanoi and Red River Delta flood North Vietnam 1971
100,0001911 Yangtze river floodChina1911

In myth and religion

Flood myths (great, civilization-destroying floods) are widespread in many cultures.

Flood events in the form of divine retribution have also been described in religious texts. As a prime example, the Genesis flood narrative plays a prominent role in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

See also

Related Research Articles

Floodplain Land adjacent to a stream or river which is flooded during periods of high discharge

A floodplain or flood plain is an area of land adjacent to a stream or river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls, and which experiences flooding during periods of high discharge. The soils usually consist of levees, silts, and sands deposited during floods. Levees are the heaviest materials and they are deposited first; silts and sands are finer materials.

100-year flood flood event

A one-hundred-year flood is a flood event that has a 1% probability of occurring in any given year.

Drainage basin Area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet

A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from rain runoff, snowmelt, and nearby streams that run downslope towards the shared outlet, as well as the groundwater underneath the earth's surface. Drainage basins connect into other drainage basins at lower elevations in a hierarchical pattern, with smaller sub-drainage basins, which in turn drain into another common outlet.

A storm surge, storm flood, tidal surge or storm tide is a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water commonly associated with low pressure weather systems, the severity of which is affected by the shallowness and orientation of the water body relative to storm path, as well as the timing of tides. Most casualties during tropical cyclones occur as the result of storm surges. It is a measure of the rise of water beyond what would be expected by the normal movement related to tides.

Hydrograph

A hydrograph is a graph showing the rate of flow (discharge) versus time past a specific point in a river, channel, or conduit carrying flow. The rate of flow is typically expressed in cubic meters or cubic feet per second . It can also refer to a graph showing the volume of water reaching a particular outfall, or location in a sewerage network. Graphs are commonly used in the design of sewerage, more specifically, the design of surface water sewerage systems and combined sewers.

Arroyo (creek) A dry creek or stream bed with flow after rain

An arroyo, also called a wash, is a dry creek, stream bed or gulch that temporarily or seasonally fills and flows after sufficient rain. Flash floods are common in arroyos following thunderstorms.

This article describes severe weather terminology used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the United States. The NWS, a government agency operating as an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the United States Department of Commerce (DoC), defines precise meanings for nearly all of its weather terms. This article describes NWS terminology and related weather scales used by the agency. Some terms may be specific to certain cities or regions.

Flood forecasting is the use of forecasted precipitation and streamflow data in rainfall-runoff and streamflow routing models to forecast flow rates and water levels for periods ranging from a few hours to days ahead, depending on the size of the watershed or river basin. Flood forecasting can also make use of forecasts of precipitation in an attempt to extend the lead-time available.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Storm Water Management Model is a dynamic rainfall–runoff–subsurface runoff simulation model used for single-event to long-term (continuous) simulation of the surface/subsurface hydrology quantity and quality from primarily urban/suburban areas. It can simulate the Rainfall- runoff, runoff, evaporation, infiltration and groundwater connection for roots, streets, grassed areas, rain gardens and ditches and pipes, for example. The hydrology component of SWMM operates on a collection of subcatchment areas divided into impervious and pervious areas with and without depression storage to predict runoff and pollutant loads from precipitation, evaporation and infiltration losses from each of the subcatchment. Besides, low impact development (LID) and best management practice areas on the subcatchment can be modeled to reduce the impervious and pervious runoff. The routing or hydraulics section of SWMM transports this water and possible associated water quality constituents through a system of closed pipes, open channels, storage/treatment devices, ponds, storages, pumps, orifices, weirs, outlets, outfalls and other regulators. SWMM tracks the quantity and quality of the flow generated within each subcatchment, and the flow rate, flow depth, and quality of water in each pipe and channel during a simulation period composed of multiple fixed or variable time steps. The water quality constituents such as water quality constituents can be simulated from buildup on the subcatchments through washoff to a hydraulic network with optional first order decay and linked pollutant removal, best management practice and low-impact development removal and treatment can be simulated at selected storage nodes. SWMM is one of the hydrology transport models which the EPA and other agencies have applied widely throughout North America and through consultants and universities throughout the world. The latest update notes and new features can be found on the EPA website in the download section. Recently added in November 2015 were the EPA SWMM 5.1 Hydrology Manual and in 2016 the EPA SWMM 5.1 Hydraulic Manual and EPA SWMM 5.1 Water Quality Volume (III) + Errata

Water balance

In hydrology, a water balance equation can be used to describe the flow of water in and out of a system. A system can be one of several hydrological domains, such as a column of soil or a drainage basin. Water balance can also refer to the ways in which an organism maintains water in dry or hot conditions. It is often discussed in reference to plants or arthropods, which have a variety of water retention mechanisms, including a lipid waxy coating that has limited permeability.

Streamflow, or channel runoff, is the flow of water in streams, rivers, and other channels, and is a major element of the water cycle. It is one component of the runoff of water from the land to waterbodies, the other component being surface runoff. Water flowing in channels comes from surface runoff from adjacent hillslopes, from groundwater flow out of the ground, and from water discharged from pipes. The discharge of water flowing in a channel is measured using stream gauges or can be estimated by the Manning equation. The record of flow over time is called a hydrograph. Flooding occurs when the volume of water exceeds the capacity of the channel.

Hydrological transport model

An hydrological transport model is a mathematical model used to simulate river or stream flow and calculate water quality parameters. These models generally came into use in the 1960s and 1970s when demand for numerical forecasting of water quality was driven by environmental legislation, and at a similar time widespread access to significant computer power became available. Much of the original model development took place in the United States and United Kingdom, but today these models are refined and used worldwide.

The history of flooding in Canada includes floods caused by snowmelt runoff or freshet flooding, storm-rainfall and "flash flooding", ice jams during ice formation and spring break-up, natural dams, coastal flooding on ocean or lake coasts from storm surges, hurricanes and tsunamis. Urban flooding can be caused by stormwater runoff, riverine flooding and structural failure when engineered flood management structures, including dams and levees, prove inadequate to manage the quantities and force of flood waters. Floods can also occur when groundwater levels rise entering buildings cracks in foundation, floors and basements.(Sandink, 2010 & 7). Flooding is part of the natural environmental process. Flooding along large river systems is more frequent in spring where peak flows are often governed by runoff volume due to rainfall and snowmelt, but can take place in summer with flash floods in urban systems that respond to short-duration, heavy rainfall. Flooding due to hurricanes, or downgraded severe storms, is a concern from August to October when tropical storms can affect Eastern North America. Flood events have had a significant effect on various regions of the country. Flooding is the costliest natural disaster for Canadians. Most home insurance claims in Canada deal with water damage due to sewer back-up, not fire.

Urban runoff Surface runoff of rainwater created by urbanization

Urban runoff is surface runoff of rainwater created by urbanization. This runoff is a major source of flooding and water pollution in urban communities worldwide.

The Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS) is designed to simulate the precipitation-runoff processes of dendritic drainage basins. It is designed to be applicable in a wide range of geographic areas for solving the widest possible range of problems. This includes large river basin water supply and flood hydrology, and small urban or natural watershed runoff. Hydrographs produced by the program are used directly or in conjunction with other software for studies of water availability, urban drainage, flow forecasting, future urbanization impact, reservoir spillway design, flood damage reduction, floodplain regulation, and systems operation.

Vflo

Vflo is a commercially available, physics-based distributed hydrologic model generated by Vieux & Associates, Inc. Vflo uses radar rainfall data for hydrologic input to simulate distributed runoff. Vflo employs GIS maps for parameterization via a desktop interface. The model is suited for distributed hydrologic forecasting in post-analysis and in continuous operations. Vflo output is in the form of hydrographs at selected drainage network grids, as well as distributed runoff maps covering the watershed. Model applications include civil infrastructure operations and maintenance, stormwater prediction and emergency management, continuous and short-term surface water runoff, recharge estimation, soil moisture monitoring, land use planning, water quality monitoring, and water resources management.

In hydrology, routing is a technique used to predict the changes in shape of a hydrograph as water moves through a river channel or a reservoir. In flood forecasting, hydrologists may want to know how a short burst of intense rain in an area upstream of a city will change as it reaches the city. Routing can be used to determine whether the pulse of rain reaches the city as a deluge or a trickle.

The flash flood guidance system (FFGS) was designed and developed by the Hydrologic Research Center a non-profit public-benefit corporation located in of San Diego, CA, US, for use by meteorological and hydrologic forecasters throughout the world. The primary purpose of the FFGS is to provide operational forecasters and disaster management agencies with real-time informational guidance products pertaining to the threat of small-scale flash flooding throughout a specified region. The FFGS provides the necessary products to support the development of warnings for flash floods from rainfall events through the use of remote-sensed precipitation and hydrologic models. The FFGS outputs are made available to users to support their analysis of weather-related events that can initiate flash floods and then to make a rapid evaluation of the potential for a flash flood at a location. To assess the threat of a local flash flood, the FFGS is designed to allow product adjustments based on the forecaster's experience with local conditions, incorporation of other information and any last minute local observations or local observer reports. The system supports evaluations of the threat of flash flooding over hourly to six-hourly time scales for stream basins that range in size from 25 to 200 km2 in size. Important technical elements of the flash flood guidance system are the development and use of a bias-corrected radar and/or satellite precipitation estimate field and the use of land-surface hydrologic modeling. The system then provides information on rainfall and hydrologic response, the two important factors in determining the potential for a flash flood. The system is based on the concept of flash flood guidance and flash flood threat. Both indices provide the user with the information needed to evaluate the potential for a flash flood, including assessing the uncertainty associated with the data.

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