Should seasonal rainfall forecasts be used for flood preparedness?

The first paper from members of the FATHUM team has now been accepted for publication!

Coughlan de Perez, E.Stephens, E.Bischiniotis, K.van Aalst, M.van den Hurk, B.Mason, S.Nissan, H. and Pappenberger, F. (2017) Should seasonal rainfall forecasts be used for flood preparedness? Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. ISSN 1027-5606 (In Press)


In light of strong encouragement for disaster managers to use climate services for flood preparation, we question whether seasonal rainfall forecasts should indeed be used as indicators of the likelihood of flooding. Here, we investigate the primary drivers of flooding at the seasonal timescale across sub-Saharan Africa. Given the sparsity of hydrological observations, we input bias-corrected reanalysis rainfall into the Global Flood Awareness System to identify seasonal indicators of floodiness. Results demonstrate that in wet climates, even a perfect tercile forecast of seasonal total rainfall would provide little to no indication of the seasonal likelihood of flooding. The number of extreme events within a season shows the highest correlations with floodiness consistently across regions. Otherwise, results vary across climate regimes: floodiness in arid regions in Southern and Eastern Africa shows the strongest correlations with seasonal average soil moisture and seasonal total rainfall. Floodiness in wetter climates of West and Central Africa and Madagascar shows the strongest relationship with measures of the intensity of seasonal rainfall. Measures of rainfall patterns, such as the length of dry spells, are least related to seasonal floodiness across the continent. Ultimately, identifying the drivers of seasonal flooding can be used to improve forecast information for flood preparedness, and avoid misleading decision-makers.

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