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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Identification of flood reactivity regions via the functional clustering of hydrographs

Brunner, Manuela I.; Viviroli, Daniel; Furrer, Reinhard; Seibert, Jan; Favre, Anne-Catherine


Flood hydrograph shapes contain valuable information on the flood-generation mechanisms of a catchment. To make good use of this information, we express flood hydrograph shapes as continuous functions using a functional data approach. We propose a clustering approach based on functional data for flood hydrograph shapes to identify a set of representative hydrograph shapes on a catchment scale and use these catchment-specific sets of representative hydrographs to establish regions of catchments with similar flood reactivity on a regional scale. We applied this approach to flood samples of 163 medium-size Swiss catchments. The results indicate that three representative hydrograph shapes sufficiently describe the hydrograph shape variability within a catchment and therefore can be used as a proxy for the flood behavior of a catchment. These catchment-specific sets of three hydrographs were used to group the catchments into three reactivity regions of similar flood behavior. These regions were not only characterized by similar hydrograph shapes and reactivity but also by event magnitudes and triggering event conditions. We envision these regions to be useful in regionalization studies, regional flood frequency analyses, and to allow for the construction of synthetic design hydrographs in ungauged catchments. The clustering approach based on functional data which establish these regions is very flexible and has the potential to be extended to other geographical regions or toward the use in climate impact studies.


clustering; functional data analysis; hydrograph shapes; homogeneous regions; regionalization

Published in

Water Resources Research
2018, Volume: 54, number: 3, pages: 1852-1867

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

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