Bayesian updating of flood inundation likelihoods conditioned on flood extent data

PD Bates*, MS Horritt, G Aronica, K Beven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Previously we have detailed an application of the generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE) procedure to estimate spatially distributed uncertainty in models conditioned against binary pattern data contained in flood inundation maps. This method was applied to two sites where a single consistent synoptic image of inundation extent was available to test the simulation performance of the method. In this paper, we extend this to examine the predictive performance of the method for a reach of the River Severn, west-central England. Uniquely for this reach, consistent inundation images of two major floods have been acquired from spaceborne synthetic aperture radars, as well as a high-resolution digital elevation model derived using laser altimetry. These data thus allow rigorous split sample testing of the previous GLUE application. To achieve this, Monte Carlo analyses of parameter uncertainty within the GLUE framework are conducted for a typical hydraulic model applied to each flood event. The best 10% of parameter sets identified in each analysis are then used to map uncertainty in flood extent predictions using the method previously proposed for both an independent validation data set and a design flood. Finally, methods for combining the likelihood information derived from each Monte Carlo ensemble are examined to determine whether this has the potential to reduce uncertainty in spatially distributed measures of flood risk for a design flood. The results show that for this reach and these events, the method previously established is able to produce sharply defined flood risk maps that compare well with observed inundation extent. More generally, we show that even single, poor-quality inundation extent images are useful in constraining hydraulic model calibrations and that values of effective friction parameters are broadly stationary between the two events simulated, most probably reflecting their similar hydraulics. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.

Translated title of the contributionBayesian updating of flood inundation likelihoods conditioned on flood extent data
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3347-3370
Number of pages24
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Wiley


  • hydraulic modelling
  • flood risk
  • flood inundation
  • GLUE
  • uncertainty


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