Date: 12 Aug 2009

Uncertainty analysis in statistical modeling of extreme hydrological events

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With the increase of both magnitude and frequency of hydrological extreme events such as drought and flooding, the significance of adequately modeling hydrological extreme events is fully recognized. Estimation of extreme rainfall/flood for various return periods is of prime importance for hydrological design or risk assessment. However, due to knowledge and data limitation, uncertainty involved in extrapolating beyond available data is huge. In this paper, different sources of uncertainty in statistical modeling of extreme hydrological events are studied in a systematic way. This is done by focusing on several key uncertainty sources using three different case studies. The chosen case studies highlight a number of projects where there have been questions regarding the uncertainty in extreme rainfall/flood estimation. The results show that the uncertainty originated from the methodology is the largest and could be >40% for a return period of 200 years, while the uncertainty caused by ignoring the dependence among multiple hydrological variables seems the smallest. In the end, it is highly recommended that uncertainty in modeling extreme hydrological events be fully recognized and incorporated into a formal hydrological extreme analysis.