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Real-time river level estimation based on variations of radar reflectivity—a case study of the Quitandinha River watershed, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Abstract

The real-time warning for flash floods represents one of the major challenges for monitoring centers and civil defenses due to the short time frame in which such phenomena occur. That situation often takes place particularly in mountainous regions where high slope rate favors an increase in the velocity of the water flow and it might generate conditions to impact the water level due to potential for provoking erosion, landslides, and debris flow. An initial one new and unique prototype of hydrometeorological relationship for real-time, site-tunable, water level for flash flood prediction is presented. Time variations of the reflectivity measured by horizontal polarization radar are evaluated and correlated to generate the local estimate of the elevation of the Quitandinha River water level for the next hour. The proposal of this relationship is not intended to act as a simplified hydraulic model but to characterize if a critical elevation of the water level could be obtained from the radar reflectivity data and consequently whether the flash flooding event should be expected. We verified that the proposed relationship that tended to underestimate the water level peaks, however, qualitatively was initially able to indicate if a flood event could occur or not in the next hour. The expectation related to this initial relationship is to improve the obtained results in order to be used as a tool for decision-making in relation to the issuance of warnings delivered by environmental monitoring centers.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Civil Engineering Program of the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE), which is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), for the support offered, particularly through availability of the Water Resources and Environmental Studies Laboratory (LABH2O).

Funding

The study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) – Finance Code 001, which also helped support this work through CAPES Call 27/2013 - Pró-Equipamentos Institucional and CAPES/MEC Call No. 03/2015 – BRICS. The authors are thankful to the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), which helped fund this work through CNPq Universal Call No. 14/2013 – Proceeding No. 485136/2013-9; No. 28 /2018 – Proceeding No. 435714/2018-0; and also by CNPq Call No. 12/2016 – Proceeding No. 306944/2016-2 and CNPq Call No. 06/2019 – Proceeding No. 303846/2019-4. The authors are also grateful to the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ), which helped to fund this work through Project FAPERJ – Pensa Rio – Call 34/2014 (2014-2021).

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Correspondence to Fabricio Polifke da Silva.

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da Silva, F.P., Rotunno Filho, O.C., Justi da Silva, M.G.A. et al. Real-time river level estimation based on variations of radar reflectivity—a case study of the Quitandinha River watershed, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Bull. of Atmos. Sci.& Technol. 2, 1 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42865-021-00030-z

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Keywords

  • Reflectivity
  • River level
  • Weather radar reflectivity
  • Nowcasting