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University of Western Australia (2008)

Effects of multi-scale rainfall variability on flood frequency : a comparative study of catchments in Perth, Newcastle and Darwin, Australia

Samuel, Jos Martinus

Titre : Effects of multi-scale rainfall variability on flood frequency : a comparative study of catchments in Perth, Newcastle and Darwin, Australia

Auteur : Samuel, Jos Martinus

Université de soutenance : University of Western Australia

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2008

Résumé
Issues arising from climate change and long-term natural climate variability have become the focus of much recent research. In this study, we specifically explore the impacts of long-term climate variability and climate changes upon flood frequencies. The analyses of the flood frequencies are carried out in a comparative manner in catchments located in semiarid-temperate and tropical landscapes in Australia, namely Perth, Newcastle and Darwin, using a process-based derived flood frequency approach. The derived flood frequency analyses are carried out using deterministic rainfall-runoff models that capture the intrinsic water balance variability in the study catchments, and driven by temporal rainfall event sequences that are generated by a stochastic rainfall model that incorporates temporal variabilities over a multiplicity of time scales, ranging from within-event, between-event to seasonal, multi-annual and multi-decadal time scales. Six climate scenarios are considered for Newcastle, that combine the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) and IPO (Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation) modes of variability, and six different climate scenarios are considered for Perth and Darwin that combine these different ENSO modes and step changes in climate (upwards or downwards) that occurred in 1970 in both regions, which were identified through statistical analysis. The results of the analyses showed that La Niña years cause higher annual maximum floods compared to El Niño and Neutral years in all three catchments. The impact of ENSO on annual maximum floods in the Newcastle catchment is enhanced when the IPO is negative and for Perth, the impact of ENSO weakens in the post-1970 period, while it strengthens in Darwin in the same period. In addition, the results of sensitivity and scenario analyses with the derived flood frequency model explored the change of dominant runoff generation processes contributing to floods in each of the study catchments. These analyses highlighted a switch from subsurface stormflow to saturation excess runoff with a change of return period, which was much more pronounced in Perth and Darwin, and not so in Newcastle. In Perth and Darwin this switch was caused by the interactions between the out-of-phase seasonal variabilities of rainfall and potential evaporation, whereas the seasonality was much weaker in Newcastle. On the other hand, the combination of higher rainfall intensities and shallower soil depths led to saturation excess runoff being the dominant mechanism in Newcastle across the full range of return periods. Consequently, within-storm rainfall intensity patterns were important in Newcastle in all major flood producing events (all return periods), where they were only important in Perth and Darwin for floods of high return periods, which occur during wet months in wet years, when saturation excess runoff was the dominant mechanism. Additionally, due to the possibility of a change of process from subsurface stormflow to saturation excess when conditions suited this switch, the estimates of flood frequency are highly uncertain especially at high return periods (in Darwin and Perth) and much less in Newcastle (when no process change was involved).

Mots clés : Climatic changes—Australia ; Flood forecasting—Australia ; Rain and rainfall ; Water balance (Hydrology) ; Watersheds—Western Australia—Perth ; Watersheds—New South Wales—Newcastle ; Watersheds—Northern Territory—Darwin

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