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Title: Modelling catchment sensitivity to rainfall resolution and erosional parameterisation in simulations of flash floods in the UK
Author: Valters, Declan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 8889
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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The contribution of this thesis is twofold: 1) the development of a hydrodynamic landscape evolution model for use on high-performance computing systems and 2) assessing the sensitivity of hydrogeomorphic processes to high-resolution rainfall input data and erosional parameterisation using the model. The thesis addresses a limitation in numerical landscape evolution models regarding how spatial variation in rainfall is represented or parameterised within such models. Typically, landscape evolution models forsake a realistic representation of rainfall patterns in favour of a simpler treatment of rainfall as being spatially homogeneous across the model domain. This simplification of rainfall spatial variability is still made despite the fact that many geomorphological processes are sensitive to thresholds of sediment entrainment and transport, driven by the distribution and movement of water within the landscape. The thesis starts by exploring current limitations in rainfall representation in landscape evolution models, and assesses various precipitation data sources that could be potentially used as more realistic rainfall inputs to landscape evolution models. A numerical model of landscape evolution is developed for deployment on high-performance parallel computing systems, based on the established CAESAR-Lisflood model (Coulthard et al., 2013). The new model code is benchmarked, showing performance benefits compared with the original CAESAR-Lisflood model it is based on. The model is applied to assessing the sensitivity of flood-inundation predictions, sediment flux, and erosion distribution within river catchments to spatial variation in rainfall during extreme storm events. Two real storm events that caused localised flash flooding in the UK are used as test cases: the Boscastle storm of 2004 and the North York Moors storm of 2005. Flood extent predictions and river discharges are found to be sensitive to the use of spatially variable input rainfall data, with high-resolution rainfall data leading to larger peak flood discharges. However, the differences are less pronounced in smaller catchments. The role of sediment erosion during large floods is also assessed, but it is found to play a minor role relative to spatially variable rainfall data. In contrast, the geomorphological response of catchments to single storm events is shown to be less sensitive to the spatial heterogeneity of rainfall input and controlled more strongly by the choice of erosional process parameterisation within the model. Nonetheless, spatial variability in rainfall data is shown to increase sediment yields during flash flood simulations.
Supervisor: Schultz, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: flooding ; hydrogeomorphology ; high-performance computing ; numerical modelling ; hydrology ; rainfall ; geomorphology ; severe storms