Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1203–1218 | Cite as

Full 2D hydrodynamic modelling of rainfall-induced flash floods

  • Wei Huang
  • Zhi-xian CaoEmail author
  • Wen-jun Qi
  • Gareth Pender
  • Kai Zhao


Mountain catchments are prone to flash flooding due to heavy rainfall. Enhanced understanding of the generation and evolution processes of flash floods is essential for effective flood risk management. However, traditional distributed hydrological models based on kinematic and diffusion wave approximations ignore certain physical mechanisms of flash floods and thus bear excessive uncertainty. Here a hydrodynamic model is presented for flash floods based on the full two-dimensional shallow water equations incorporating rainfall and infiltration. Laboratory experiments of overland flows were modelled to illustrate the capability of the model. Then the model was applied to resolve two observed flash floods of distinct magnitudes in the Lengkou catchment in Shanxi Province, China. The present model is shown to be able to reproduce the flood flows fairly well compared to the observed data. The spatial distribution of rainfall is shown to be crucial for the modelling of flash floods. Sensitivity analyses of the model parameters reveal that the stage and discharge hydrographs are more sensitive to the Manning roughness and initial water content in the catchment than to the Green-Ampt head. Most notably, as the flash flood augments due to heavier rainfall, the modelling results agree with observed data better, which clearly characterizes the paramount role of rainfall in dictating the floods. From practical perspectives, the proposed model is more appropriate for modelling large flash floods.


Flash flood Full hydrodynamic model Spatial distribution Rainfall 





the infiltration rate


cumulative infiltration depth

F, G

are interface fluxes in the x - and y - directions respectively


the acceleration due to gravity


water depth


Green-Ampt capillary head

i, j

the spatial node indexes in the x - and y - directions respectively


the time level


saturated hydraulic conductivity


Manning roughness


number of rain gauges

qx, qy

unit discharges in the x - and y - directions respectively


the rainfall intensity




root mean error- observations standard deviation ratio


percentage bias


the source term


friction source term


bed source term


additional bed source term


a vector of conserved variables

u, v

velocity components in the x - and y - directions respectively


bed elevation


initial volumetric water content


saturated volumetric water content

τbx, τby

bed stresses in the x - and y - directions respectively


the time step

Δx, Δy

spatial steps in the x - and y - directions respectively


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhi-xian Cao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wen-jun Qi
    • 4
  • Gareth Pender
    • 3
  • Kai Zhao
    • 5
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering ScienceWuhan UniversityWuhanChina
  2. 2.Changjiang Waterway Planning Design and Research InstituteWuhanChina
  3. 3.Institute for Infrastructure and EnvironmentHeriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Office of Shanxi Provincial Flood Defense and Drought Relief HeadquartersTaiyuanChina
  5. 5.Shanxi Provincial Hydrographic and Water Resources Survey BureauTaiyuanChina

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