The challenge of predicting flash floods from thunderstorm rainfall

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2002 Jul 15;360(1796):1363-71. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2002.1015.


A major characteristic of the hydrometeorology of semi-arid regions is the occurrence of intense thunderstorms that develop very rapidly and cause severe flooding. In summer, monsoon air mass is often of subtropical origin and is characterized by convective instability. The existing observational network has major deficiencies for those regions in providing information that is important to run-off generation. Further, because of the complex interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere, mesoscale atmospheric models are currently able to reproduce only general features of the initiation and development of convective systems. In our research, several interrelated components including the use of satellite data to monitor precipitation, data assimilation of a mesoscale regional atmospheric model, modification of the land component of the mesoscale model to better represent the semi-arid region surface processes that control run-off generation, and the use of ensemble forecasting techniques to improve forecasts of precipitation and run-off potential are investigated. This presentation discusses our ongoing research in this area; preliminary results including an investigation related to the unprecedented flash floods that occurred across the Las Vegas valley (Nevada, USA) in July of 1999 are discussed.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computer Simulation
  • Desert Climate
  • Disasters*
  • Environmental Monitoring / instrumentation
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Forecasting / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nevada
  • Rain*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Satellite Communications
  • Seasons*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Southwestern United States
  • Systems Integration