Deriving global flood hazard maps of fluvial floods through a physical model cascade

F. Pappenberger*, E. Dutra, F. Wetterhall, H. L. Cloke

*Corresponding author for this work

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

154 Citations (Scopus)


Global flood hazard maps can be used in the assessment of flood risk in a number of different applications, including (re)insurance and large scale flood preparedness. Such global hazard maps can be generated using large scale physically based models of rainfall-runoff and river routing, when used in conjunction with a number of post-processing methods. In this study, the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) land surface model is coupled to ERA-Interim reanalysis meteorological forcing data, and resultant runoff is passed to a river routing algorithm which simulates floodplains and flood flow across the global land area. The global hazard map is based on a 30 yr (1979-2010) simulation period. A Gumbel distribution is fitted to the annual maxima flows to derive a number of flood return periods. The return periods are calculated initially for a 25 × 25 km grid, which is then reprojected onto a 1 × 1 km grid to derive maps of higher resolution and estimate flooded fractional area for the individual 25 × 25 km cells. Several global and regional maps of flood return periods ranging from 2 to 500 yr are presented. The results compare reasonably to a benchmark data set of global flood hazard. The developed methodology can be applied to other datasets on a global or regional scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4143-4156
Number of pages14
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2012


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