Surface water connectivity dynamics of a large scale extreme flood

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During flood inundation, river water passes from the main channel into the floodplain through floodplain channels and diffusive overbank flow. This flood water is then distributed within the floodplain depending upon internal connections, barriers and storage, and finally returns back to the river through drainage connections. This surface water connectivity can be complex and is important to many aspects of floodplain functioning, including ecology, sediment movement and flood risk. However, there is currently no accepted way of quantifying this connectivity objectively. We quantify surface water connectivity geostatistically as an objectively measurable characteristic of an observed flood event using a time series of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) surface water product for an extreme large scale flood event (11,000 km2 flooded area and 6 month duration) during 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand. We develop and apply a new gap filling method that better preserves the dynamic information of the event than simple aggregation methods. Comparison of MODIS results with the higher resolution Earth Observer 1 shows fundamental differences in the resolved connectivity with scale despite similar flooded area. The effect of the passage of the flood wave is directly observable in the river reach, as out-of-bank flooding progresses and increases connectivity along the river during rising water. Around peak flow, there is an increase in connectivity of the floodplain adjacent to the river as low lying areas fill. A step increase in connectivity is correlated with a major levee breach. During recession there is a rapid reduction in along river connectivity in the first week after the peak. This rapid reduction contrasted with a slow decrease in the floodplain connectivity as flooded depressions gradually drained reducing depth, while flood extent remained static for long periods. The connectivity analysis of the threshold in floodplain draining indicates that although spatial flood extent changes are small at this time, there is a reorganisation of the internal surface water connectivity within the flooded area. Thus through this measure of connectivity, we can see a clear structure to the event progression with new insights into flood dynamics that were not anticipated a priori.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138 - 149
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date29 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Geostatistical connectivity
  • Floodplain dynamics
  • 2011 Bangkok
  • Thailand

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