BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Determining Hydrological Controls on Flood Frequency
Published: February 05, 2014
Posted: March 27, 2014

Flooding is a major natural hazard with significant societal, economic, hydrological, and ecological consequences. To improve flood frequency estimates, a recent study, led by U.S. Department of Energy scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provides insights on the connections between flood frequency and the annual water balance. Researchers performed the study using data from several hundred catchments across the continental United States. The research expressed mean annual water balance in terms of two controlling measures: (1) the climatic aridity index (AI), which is a measure of the competition between evaporation and precipitation, and (2) the base flow index (BFI), which is a measure of total runoff partitioning into surface and subsurface components at the annual time scale. Their results showed that the AI has a first-order control on the shape of the flood frequency curve in terms of the mean and variability of the annual maximum floods. While the mean annual flood discharge decreases with increasing aridity, variability increases. In contrast, the BFI was found to exert a second-order control on the flood frequency. Higher BFI, meaning higher contributions of subsurface flow to total streamflow, leads to a decrease of the mean annual (specific) flood discharge, and vice versa. By attributing regional variations of the flood frequency curve to AI and BFI, this study provided the basis to delineate hydrological regions using the two indices for flood frequency regionalization, which may help improve flood estimation and prediction.

Reference: Guo, J., H. Li, L. R. Leung, S. Guo, P. Liu, and M. Sivapalan. 2013. “Links Between Flood Frequency and Annual Water Balance Behaviors: A Basis for Similarity and Regionalization,” Water Resources Research, DOI: 10.1002/2013WR014374. (Reference link)

Contact: Renu Joseph, SC-23.1, (301) 903-9237, Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Mar 23, 2021
Molecular Connections from Plants to Fungi to Ants
Lipids transfer energy and serve as an inter-kingdom communication tool in leaf-cutter ants&rsqu [more...]

Mar 19, 2021
Microbes Use Ancient Metabolism to Cycle Phosphorus
Microbial cycling of phosphorus through reduction-oxidation reactions is older and more widespre [more...]

Feb 22, 2021
Warming Soil Means Stronger Microbe Networks
Soil warming leads to more complex, larger, and more connected networks of microbes in those soi [more...]

Jan 27, 2021
Labeling the Thale Cress Metabolites
New data pipeline identifies metabolites following heavy isotope labeling.

Analysis [more...]

Aug 31, 2020
Novel Bacterial Clade Reveals Origin of Form I Rubisco

  • All plant biomass is sourced from the carbon-fixing enzyme Rub [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)