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Title: Understanding urban rainfall-runoff responses using physical and numerical modelling approaches
Author: Green, Daniel
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis provides a novel investigation into rainfall-runoff processes occurring within a unique two-tiered depth-driven overland flow physical modelling environment, as well as within a numerical model context where parameterisation and DEM/building resolution influences have been investigated using an innovative de-coupled methodology. Two approaches to simulating urban rainfall-runoff responses were used. Firstly, a novel, 9 m2 physical modelling environment consisting of a: (i) a low-cost rainfall simulator component able to simulate consistent, uniformly distributed rainfall events of varying duration and intensity, and; (ii) a modular plot surface layer was used. Secondly, a numerical hydroinundation model (FloodMap2D-HydroInundation) was used to simulate a short-duration, high intensity surface water flood event (28th June 2012, Loughborough University campus). The physical model showed sensitivities to a number of meteorological and terrestrial factors. Results demonstrated intuitive model sensitivity to increasing the intensity and duration of rainfall, resulting in higher peak discharges and larger outflow volumes at the model outflow unit, as well as increases in the water depth within the physical model plot surface. Increases in percentage permeability were also shown to alter outflow flood hydrograph shape, volume, magnitude and timing due to storages within the physical model plot. Thus, a reduction in the overall volume of water received at the outflow hydrograph and a decrease in the peak of the flood event was observed with an increase in permeability coverage. Increases in the density of buildings resulted in a more rapid receding limb of the hydrograph and a steeper rising limb, suggesting a more rapid hydrological response. This indicates that buildings can have a channelling influence on surface water flows as well as a blockage effect. The layout and distribution of permeable elements was also shown to affect the rainfall-runoff response recorded at the model outflow, with downstream concentrated permeability resulting in statistically different hydrograph outflow data, but the layout of buildings was not seen to result in significant changes to the outflow flood hydrographs; outflow hydrographs appeared to only be influenced by the actual quantity and density of buildings, rather than their spatial distribution and placement within the catchment. Parameterisation of hydraulic (roughness) and hydrological (drainage rate, infiltration and evapotranspiration) model variables, and the influence of mesh resolution of elevation and building elements on surface water inundation outputs, both at the global and local level, were studied. Further, the viability of crowdsourced approaches to provide external model validation data in conjunction with dGPS water depth data was assessed. Parameterisation demonstrated that drainage rate changes within the expected range of parameter values resulted in considerable losses from the numerical model domain at global and local scales. Further, the model was also shown to be moderately sensitive to hydraulic conductivity and roughness parameterisation at both scales of analysis. Conversely, the parameterisation of evapotranspiration demonstrated that the model was largely insensitive to any changes of evapotranspiration rates at the global and local scales. Detailed analyses at the hotspot level were critical to calibrate and validate the numerical model, as well as allowing small-scale variations to be understood using at-a-point hydrograph assessments. A localised analysis was shown to be especially important to identify the effects of resolution changes in the DEM and buildings which were shown to be spatially dependent on the density, presence, size and geometry of buildings within the study site. The resolution of the topographic elements of a DEM were also shown to be crucial in altering the flood characteristics at the global and localised hotspot levels. A novel de-coupled investigation of the elevation and building components of the DEM in a strategic matrix of scenarios was used to understand the independent influence of building and topographic mesh resolution effects on surface water flood outputs. Notably, the inclusion of buildings on a DEM surface was shown to have a considerable influence on the distribution of flood waters through time (regardless of resolution), with the exclusion of buildings from the DEM grid being shown to produce less accurate results than altering the overall resolution of the horizontal DEM grid cells. This suggests that future surface water flood studies should focus on the inclusion and representation of buildings and structural features present on the DEM surface as these have a crucial role in modifying rainfall-runoff responses. Focus on building representation was shown to be more vital than concentrating on advances in the horizontal resolution of the grid cells which make up a DEM, as a DEM resolution of 2 m was shown to be sufficiently detailed to conduct the urban surface water flood modelling undertaken, supporting previous inundation research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Loughborough University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Surface water flooding ; Urban floods ; Rainfall-runoff ; Numerical modelling ; Physical models ; Parameterisation ; Building treatment ; DEM resolution ; Sensitivity analysis ; Crowdsourced validation data