Abstract

Using data from 520 gauging stations in Britain and gridded rainfall datasets, the seasonality of storm rainfall and flood runoff is compared and mapped. Annual maximum (AMAX) daily rainfall occurs predominantly in summer, but AMAX floods occur most frequently in winter. Seasonal occurrences of annual daily rainfall and flood maxima differ by more than 50% in dry lowland catchments. The differences diminish with increasing catchment wetness, increase with rainfalls shorter than daily duration and are shown to depend primarily on catchment wetness, as illustrated by variations in mean annual rainfall. Over the whole dataset, only 34% of AMAX daily flood events are matched to daily rainfall annual maxima (and only 20% for 6-hour rainfall maxima). The discontinuity between rainfall maxima and flooding is explained by the consideration of coincident soil moisture storage. The results have serious implications for rainfall-runoff methods of flood risk estimation in the UK where estimation is based on a depth–duration–frequency model of rainfall highly biased to summer. It is concluded that inadequate treatment of the seasonality of rainfall and soil moisture seriously reduces the reliability of event-based flood estimation in Britain.

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