The extreme runoff index for flood early warning in Europe

L. Alfieri*, F. Pappenberger, F. Wetterhall

*Corresponding author for this work

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

24 Citations (Scopus)


Systems for the early detection of floods over continental and global domains have a key role in providing a quick overview of areas at risk, raise the awareness and prompt higher detail analyses as the events approach. However, the reliability of these systems is prone to spatial inhomogeneity, depending on the quality of the underlying input data and local calibration. This work proposes a simple approach for flood early warning based on ensemble numerical predictions of surface runoff provided by weather forecasting centers. The system is based on a novel indicator, referred to as an extreme runoff index (ERI), which is calculated from the input data through a statistical analysis. It is designed for use in large or poorly gauged domains, as no local knowledge or in situ observations are needed for its setup. Daily runs over 32 months are evaluated against calibrated hydrological simulations for all of Europe. Results show skillful flood early warning capabilities up to a 10-day lead time. A dedicated analysis is performed to investigate the optimal timing of forecasts to maximize the detection of extreme events. A case study for the central European floods of June 2013 is presented and forecasts are compared to the output of a hydro-meteorological ensemble model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1505-1515
Number of pages11
JournalNatural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'The extreme runoff index for flood early warning in Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this