Synthetic design hydrographs for ungauged catchments: a comparison of regionalization methods

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Design flood estimates for a given return period are required in both gauged and ungauged catchments for hydraulic design and risk assessments. Contrary to classical design estimates, synthetic design hydrographs provide not only information on the peak magnitude of events but also on the corresponding hydrograph volumes together with the hydrograph shapes. In this study, we tested different regionalization approaches to transfer parameters of synthetic design hydrographs from gauged to ungauged catchments. These approaches include classical regionalization methods such as linear regression techniques, spatial methods, and methods based on the formation of homogeneous regions. In addition to these classical approaches, we tested nonlinear regression models not commonly used in hydrological regionalization studies, such as random forest, bagging, and boosting. We found that parameters related to the magnitude of the design event can be regionalized well using both linear and nonlinear regression techniques using catchment area, length of the main channel, maximum precipitation intensity, and relief energy as explanatory variables. The hydrograph shape, however, was found to be more difficult to regionalize due to its high variability within a catchment. Such variability might be better represented by looking at flood-type specific synthetic design hydrographs.

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We thank the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) for funding the project (contract 13.0028.KP/M285-0623) and for providing runoff measurement data. We also thank MeteoSwiss for providing precipitation data. The data used in this study is available upon order from the FOEN and MeteoSwiss. For the hydrological data of the federal stations, the order form under can be used. The hydrological data of the cantonal stations can be ordered from the respective cantons. The meteorological data can be ordered via We thank the associate editor and the four reviewers for their constructive and detailed comments.

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Correspondence to Manuela I. Brunner.

Appendix: List of stations used in this regionalization study

Appendix: List of stations used in this regionalization study

See Table 5.

Table 5 List of stations used in this regionalization study, a summary of their catchment characteristics, and their locally estimated SDH parameters (last ten columns)

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Brunner, M.I., Furrer, R., Sikorska, A.E. et al. Synthetic design hydrographs for ungauged catchments: a comparison of regionalization methods. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 32, 1993–2023 (2018).

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  • Regionalization
  • Ungauged catchments
  • Design hydrographs
  • Flood estimation
  • Regression trees